Week of 10/17 (Night class): Baraka’s Dutchman


Photo: Still from the 1967 film version of Dutchman.

For Tuesday October 17th, we take a sharp turn and read the classic play Dutchman from Amiri Baraka (then named LeRoi Jones). Read only the first half of the book: the play Dutchman. (We’re not reading the second half of the book, a separate play The Slave.) Even though it’s short, you need to read it slowly and carefully.

Presentation by: King, Clavel, Kelvin, and Juliette.

Pay attention to the following to guide your reading:

  • What are the key themes or topics that you think the play talks about?
  • How does the setting of the play affect the action? What role does the subway train play?
  • What does it say about life in the city or urban environments?
  • What makes it an urban play?
  • There are crucial points in the play where the plot (action) turns that decide the outcome. What do you think they are?
  • Read the final few pages of the play more than once. What’s the significance of Clay’s final speech?

Watch the following short YouTube video with Baraka discussing the context of the play and some of what influenced him to write it.

Optional: Watch an interview I did for The Queens Grapevine on Amiri Baraka’s life and legacy.

For Thursday October 19, we continue our discussion of Dutchman. Re-read Clay’s final speech at the end of the play and other key sections. Think about the discussion questions and what makes it an urban play. Also think about how you might stage it as a play. How might characters act? How would you imagine them? We’ll watch clips of performances and compare them. Read Baraka’s short essay “The Revolutionary Theatre” (download the PDF here) and relate it to Dutchman. Does the play do what he proposes here?

Extra: Listen to Baraka reading the essay in 1965 in the WNYC Radio archives.

Next Week:
The following week, we take a detour into representations of the city in film. I usually choose the film by class vote, but this time we’ll look at Spike Lee’s Crooklyn since it was chosen as the selection for One Film New York.


  • Lehman’s library (and tech center with computers) have expanded hours for midterm exams. They’re open 24/7 during midterms.
  • Lehman has short term emergency loans available for students. See the Office of Student Affairs for details and an application.