About the Play

First Production

Plumes was produced at Chicago’s Cube Theatre, a theatre known for showcasing plays of African-American folk life, in 1927. Sometime between 1928 and 1931, it was also produced at the Harlem Experimental Theatre.

Cast Breakdown
2F, 1M, 1 female off-stage voice
Drama, Folk Play,

Included in the anthology Plays by American Women: 1900-1930. Judith Barlow, ed. New York: Applause Theatre Books, 2000.


Charity’s daughter Emeline is seriously ill. A pompous doctor advises her that a $50 operation could save Emeline’s life, but that’s a devastating amount for her poor family, and besides, Charity doesn’t trust the man. She faces the heartbreaking decision of choosing between an expensive cure that might not succeed—or the decent funeral denied her other children, complete with, in her words, “everythin’ gran—plumes!”


Plumes won first prize in the playwriting contest sponsored by the influential Opportunity magazine. Like many plays of the Harlem Renaissance, it is a “folk play,” a drama of rural life written in dialect—a genre inspired by the rural plays of Ireland’s Abbey Theatre. Langston Hughes declared it “one of the best little plays I’ve seen.”

Plumes was published four times between 1927 and 1929: in Opportunity magazine (1927), in Alain Locke’s anthology Plays of Negro Life (1927), in an acting edition by Samuel French (1928), and in V.F. Calverton’s Anthology of American Literature (1929). It quickly became a favorite with little theatres and community theatres across the country.

Scenes from the Play

Plumes, Charity and Dr. Scott
Dr Scott tries to talk Mrs. Brown into paying him for an operation on her daughter that may or may not save her life. View Scene

Plumes, Charity and Tildy
Tildy, Charity’s friend, stops by to see how Charity’s very ailing 13 year-old daughter is doing. View Scene

About the Playwright

Georgia Douglas Johnson
Georgia Douglas Johnson
Georgia Douglas Johnson (c.1880-1966) was a playwright, poet, journalist and musician. She began her professional life as a teacher, working in Atlanta schools for about 10 years after she graduated from college. She left teaching to study music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland College of Music in Ohio, taking classes in harmony, violin, voice and piano. After completing her studies, she returned to Atlanta and resumed her teaching career, working her way up to assistant pr…
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One Play at a Time Participating Universities

Cheryl Black
University of Missouri
Pamela Brown
University of Connecticut
Maya Cantu
Bennington College
Paula Cizmar
University of Souther California
Martha LoMonaco
Fairfield University
Alma Martinez
University of La Verne
Elizabeth Osborne
Florida State University
Jonathan Shandell
Arcadia University
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