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Encyclopedia > A Soldier's Play

"A Soldier's Play" was a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama written by Charles Fuller in 1982. This play uses a murder mystery to explore the complicated feelings of anger and resentment that some black Americans have toward one another, and the ways in which many black Americans have absorbed white racist attitudes. Charles Fuller (born 05 March 1939) is an African-American playwright and writer, best known for A Soldiers Play, winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. ...


The story takes place at an Army base called Fort Neal in Louisiana, in 1944, when the U.S. Army was still racially segregated. In the opening scene, the audience witnesses the murder of black Sergeant Vernon Waters, by an unseen shooter. Just before his death, Waters utters the enigmatic cry, "They still hate you!" Official language(s) de jure: none de facto: English & French Capital Baton Rouge Largest city Baton Rouge [1] Area  Ranked 31st  - Total 51,885 sq mi (134,382 km²)  - Width 130 miles (210 km)  - Length 379 miles (610 km)  - % water 16  - Latitude 29°N to 33°N  - Longitude 89°W...


Captain Richard Davenport, a rare black Army officer, has been sent to investigate the killing. Initially, the primary suspects are local Klansmen. Later, bigoted white soldiers fall under suspicion. Ultimately, Davenport discovers that the killer was one of the black soldiers under Waters' command. Waters' men hated him because Waters himself held Southern black men in utter disdain and contempt.


As Davenport interviews witnesses and suspects, we see flashbacks showing what Sergeant Waters was like, and how he treated his men. The light-skinned Waters was highly intelligent and extremely ambitious, and loathed black men who conformed to old-fashioned racist stereotypes. Waters dreamed of sending his own children to an elite college where they would associate with white students, rather than with other blacks. In Waters' mind, Uncle Toms and "lazy, shiftless Negroes" reflected poorly on him, and made it harder for other African-Americans to succeed. For that reason, Waters enjoyed tormenting black soldiers like Private C.J. Memphis, whose broad grin and jive talk made Waters' blood boil. Waters' cruelty and vindictiveness drove Memphis to suicide, which alienated the rest of Waters' men, and turned them hopelessly against him.


Shortly before he was murdered, Waters came to realize how futile and foolish his lifelong attempts to behave like a white man had been. His dying words, "They still hate you," reflected his belated understanding that white hatred and disdain of black men like himself had nothing to do with stereotypical black behavior, and that whites would probably always hate him, no matter how hard he tried to emulate "white" ways.


The play was originally staged by the Negro Ensemble Company. The cast included Adolph Caesar as Sergeant Waters and Denzel Washington as Private Peterson. Both Caesar and Washington reprised their roles in the movie version, A Soldier's Story, which was directed by Norman Jewison. Adolph Caesar (born December 5, 1933; died March 6, 1986) was an African American actor. ... Denzel Jermaine Washington, Jr. ... The worst thing you can do in this part of the country is pay too much attention to the death of a Negro under mysterious circumstances. ... Norman Frederick Jewison, CC, BA, LL.D (born July 21, 1926) is a Canadian film director, producer, and actor. ...


 
 

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