The Star of Ethiopia
The Star of Ethiopia is an American historical pageant written by W. E. B. Du Bois. It first opened in New York City on October 22, 1913. There were only four productions (New York in 1913, Washington, DC in 1915, Philadelphia in 1916, and Los Angeles in 1925), all of which were directed by Charles Burroughs. Using 350 to 1,000 actors, the play outlines the history of African-Americans throughout time. The pageant is structured into a prologue and five scenes: 1) The Gift of Iron, 2) The Dream of Egypt, 3) The Glory of Ethiopia, 4) The Valley of Humiliation, and 5) The Vision Everlasting. Interspersed among these episodes were two selections from Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. Du Bois wrote about the structure of the play, saying that it
begins with the prehistoric black men who gave to the world the gift of welding iron. Ethiopia, Mother of Men, then leads the mystic procession of historic events past the glory of ancient Egypt, the splendid kingdoms of the Sudan and Zymbabwe [sic] down to the tragedy of the American slave trade. Up from slavery slowly. . . the black race writhes back to life and hope. . . on which the Star of Ethiopia gleams forever.
30,000 people attended the opening performance of the play in 1913. Because the pageant was not a financial success, only four productions were ever mounted.
- DuBois, W.E.B. “The Star of Ethiopia: A Pageant.” 1915. Pamphlets and Leaflets by W.E.B. DuBois. Ed. Herbert Aptheker. White Plains, NY: Kraus-Thomason, 1983. 161-65, 206-309.
- Krasner, David. “'The Pageant Is the Thing': Black Nationalism and The Star of Ethiopia.” Performing America: Cultural Nationalism in American Theater. Ed. Jeffrey C. Mason and J. Ellen Gainor. Ann Arbor: U Michigan Press, 1998. 106-122. ISBN 0-472-08792-4