Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Analysis

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, one of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle plays, takes place in 1927 in a Chicago recording studio where Ma Rainey, her band and her white producer are attempting to record a new album of her hits. There is tension throughout the group. The producer is irritated about catering to Ma’s every wish and the fact that she’s late to the recording session; her white agent merely tries to act as a peacekeeper between Ma and the producer, insisting she’ll show up; the players are sniping at each other because of their views on life and music, as well as their age differences. Levee, the youngest member of the band, is a talented trumpet player with a strong desire to have his own band and record his…show more content…
The band members are all poor and banter about the various ways they have been exploited by whites. One of the strongest points made is the suggestion that black people must do what they can to survive and not get into trouble. Ma Rainey is able to exploit the white men who exploit her by taking advantage of the fact that they cater to her as a successful artist: whether they like or not, she is called the Queen (or Mother) of the Blues for a reason. In this way, she is able to maintain some control over her career and success, unlike her instrumentalists. Levee was rejected by the white producer he depended on, then couldn’t keep his cool, and now he has fallen into the trap that has ensnared so many young black men to this day. Wilson wrote this play decades after Ma Rainey’s death, but many of these points are still very relevant to the contemporary African-American experience. Many black men and women find themselves exploited, drawn into crime and living just to survive, and every now and then someone’s creative dreams might take flight. Things have improved since 1927 but the problems are still here, and Wilson did a fine job of highlighting that in a historical
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