Continuing the work from her earlier book, Associate Professor Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, THEA, has written Through Smiles and Tears: The History of African American Theater (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2011), which offers a much needed contextualization of West, East and South African performance traditions. From the development of musical instruments, to the creation of song styles and cadence, to the playful comic parody that would serve as modest entertainment for hundreds of thousands of Negroes in the plantation quarters of the South, this text seeks to shed light on the rich history and tradition of African American Theater. It is a follow-up to her The Secret Messages in African American Theater: Hidden Meanings Embedded in Public Discourse (Edwin Mellen, 2006).
Providing a rare analysis into the political economy of African American performance traditions, Williams-Witherspoon’s book offers a unique addition to the American Theater canon. For students of theater, anthropology, Africana and African American studies, this text offers a more in-depth history of African American theater, its African retentions and its contributions to American theater and popular culture.