Historical Context in Blues for Mister Charlie by Baldwin
The play by Baldwin is constructed of several contextual references which mirror the situation revealed in his work. For instance, at the beginning of Act 1 of Blues for Mister Charlie, the audience can see the struggle of African American students as they are not being accepted by society and viewed differently under the law system (Baldwin, 1964). Baldwin references this situation to Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, where the historical discrimination towards the black community is portrayed (Alexander, 2011). There, Alexander portrays how police and justice officials falsely accuse black representatives of different crimes as they have stereotypes about their deviant behavior.
Similarly, when Richard talks to Janita, he remembers the time in Lexington, the place where the first US drug addict prisoners’ correction system was created (Baldwin, 1964). The prison was otherwise called the Narcotic Farm, which promised many positive outcomes for the recovery of prisoners (Campbell, 2021). However, the system proved to be ineffective, as most of the prisoners had a relapse (Campbell, 2021). Richard mentions he had a history of being a drug addict and tried to recover (Baldwin, 1964). His visit to Lexington serves as a context to the correction place. Nonetheless, it is apparent that the Narcotic Farm was not helpful. Thus, Baldwin demonstrates the problem of unsuccessful treatment experiments which exploited prisoners in the country’s history.
Furthermore, the Apollo Theater of Harlem is mentioned as Richard’s starting place to show the original place where black communities began to build their own culture. Apollo Theater is well known for it being the first entertainment facility with African American performers (Fox, 2020). Slowly, its neighborhood was filled with black people, creating a substantially different society of distinct culture. This way, Baldwin mirrors the story of the characters with the various historical contexts which were significant for the country’s formation.
Alexander, M. (2011). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.
Baldwin, J. (1964). Blues for Mister Charlie [Play]. Dial Press.
Campbell, N. D. (2021). Narcotic Farm: the rise and fall of America’s first prison for drug addicts. SOUTH LIMESTONE.
Fox, T. (2020). Showtime at the Apollo: The Epic Tale of Harlem’s Legendary Theater. Abrams ComicArts.