Florence by Alice Childress
This 1950 play by Alice Childress takes place in a train station
waiting room in a very small town in the south. The play describes how
Miss Whitney, an old black woman, discovers that her premonition of
the success of her daughter, Florence, as a black actress is
undesirably similar to that of a racist, white society. This troubling
discovery has just as strong an impact on the reader as it does on
Miss Whitney. This drama teaches the reader how the views and opinions
of individuals or groups can influence other individuals or groups to
approach situations with the same reaction, although their views and
opinions may be opposite.
Marge, Miss Whitney's other daughter, first introduces this frame of
mind to as she accompanies Miss Whitney at the train station. They sit
in the "colored" section of the train station while Miss Whitney
awaits a train to Harlem to convince Florence to come back home to the
south. Florence fled to Harlem with ambition of being an actress.
After she calls home to ask for money, Marge is convinced that
Florence will fail because she is a black woman attempting to make it
in a business dominated by whites in a racially segregated society.
Although Miss Whitney seems to have a little bit more faith in
Florence, she still wants to convince Florence to come back home. They
even have a check ready to pay for her trip home, which is causing
them to be late on their rent. This reveals to us that they are
willing to sacrifice a little in order to prevent Florence from
possibly failing in her quest for success. As Marge speaks to her
mother she reveals her mentality in regards to Florence's situation,
"She ain't gonna get rich up there and we can't afford to do for her.
She got notions a Negro woman don't need. She must think she's white!"
(Childress. 1320) Her mother expresses a bit more faith responding,
"Maybe we shoulda just sent her the money this time. This one time."
As Marge leaves the station we are introduced to Mr. Brown, an old
black porter. As Mr. Brown speaks with Miss Whitney we find out that
his son and brother are both attending different colleges. Miss
Whitney expresses her thoughts by saying, "takes an awful lot of goin'
to school to be anything." (Childress.1322) Mr. Brown also informs
Miss Whitney that his brother saw Florence in a movie. This excites
Miss Whitney only for a second as she proceeds to ask Mr. Brown about
his brother's aspirations, as if it were more interesting. The
conversation is short due to the entrance of Mrs. Carter.
Mrs. Carter is introduced in the play as a "white woman…well dressed,
wearing furs and carrying a small, expensive overnight bag."
(Childress. 1322) Mrs. Carter is on her way back home to New York
City. Although she thinks of herself as being beyond the racist state
of the south, we are immediately exposed to her racist mentality as
she speaks her first word, "Boy," (Childress....