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Herman's hand lays on top of Julia on a wooden table. A wedding band sits on the table beside their hands. Photography by Ted Belton.

Exploring the history behind Wedding Band

  Photography by Ted Belton.

Alice Childress

Who was Alice Childress the writer?


Playwright, performer, and novelist Alice Childress was born October 12, 1916 in Charleston, S.C. In 1925, Childress moved to Harlem, where she was raised primarily by her grandmother, whom Childress would later credit as the inspiration for her own artistic ambitions and gifts as a storyteller.

In 1941, Childress joined the American Negro Theatre, where she first drew notice as an actor in the 1944 Broadway production of Anna Lucasta. A scarcity of fulfilling roles spurred Childress to turn her hand to playwriting. Her first play, Florence, was produced in 1949, followed by Just a Little SimpleGold Through the TreesTrouble in MindWedding BandWine in the WildernessMojoStringSea Island Song, and Moms.

Along with her plays, Childress was a prolific writer of short stories and novels. She is perhaps best remembered for her young adult novel A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich (1973), which she later adapted into a film starring Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson.


The lasting impact of Childress.


While Childress was not an original member of the American Negro Theatre, she made a strong impression on her colleagues. Ruby Dee, who would go on to originate the role of Julia in Wedding Band, remembered Childress as "one of the elders of the group." For actor Sidney Poitier, Childress was a mentor who "opened me up to positive new ways of looking at myself and others."

From the time she joined the American Negro Theatre up to the present day, Childress has been an inspiration for younger Black playwrights. For playwright William Branch, exposure to Childress began with Florence—a play he credits for gifting him his first experience of a production by a Black playwright—and continued full circle onto the production of his first play, A Medal for Willie, which was staged at a small theatre co-founded by Childress. In Lorraine Hansberry's case, it was seven years prior to seeing her own play, A Raisin in the Sun, open on Broadway that she observed the brilliance of her predecessor: "Alice Childress seems to know more about language and drama than most people who write for theatre today." More recently, Tony-nominated playwright Dominique Morisseau (Skeleton Crew) has summed up the Childress effect as "She changed my life," after discovering the seminal playwright's work during her first year of college.


A timeline: Julia and Herman in history

Play setting: Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston was the first permanent European settlement in Carolina, its first seat of government, and the most important city in the southern United States, well into the nineteenth century.


1834 — End of slavery in most of the Empire, including Canada

1848 — John C. Calhoun, Senator from South Carolina, gives speech in opposition to the Oregon Bill (which prohibited slavery in the territory), in which he refutes the Declaration of Independence to make the case for the expansion of slavery.

1851 — Calhoun's A Disquisition on Government is published posthumously

1861 — Civil War begins

Union forces take control of the Sea Islands. Enslaved African-Americans flee to the area, especially to Edisto Island, where Union troops consider blacks to be free because they are the "contraband of war."

1862 — Robert Smalls sails The Planter through Confederate lines and delivers it and its cargo to Union forces off the South Carolina coast. He volunteers to help the Union Navy guide its ships through the dangerous South Carolina coastal waters for the rest of the war.

1865 — Civil War ends 

1865 — End of slavery in the United States 

1865 — The Ku Klux Klan is founded in Pulaski, Tennessee

1868 — State Senator and presidential elector B.F. Randolph is murdered by radical whites in Abbeville County 

1870 — Joseph Rainey becomes the first African-American in South Carolina to become a U.S. Representative in Congress

1878 — Herman is born

1883 — Julia is born; Herman wins $20 for memorizing Calhoun's speech

1886 — Largest earthquake to hit the southeastern U.S. (est. 7.3) hits Charleston, killing 100+ and causing approximately $5 million in damages

1895 — South Carolina's rewritten state constitution enshrines segregation in education, prohibits marriage between a white person and Negro (including anyone >1/8th "Negro Blood"), and effectively disenfranchises its Black residents

1908 — Julia and Herman begin a romantic relationship

1910  — Suspected of murder and attempted assault, Flute Clark is lynched by a mob "of thousands" in Little Mountain (Newberry County), SC

1914  — World War I begins

When Congress declared war on Germany in April 1917, part of South Carolina was already on a war footing. More than 65,000 South Carolinians served in the armed forces, while others supported the war effort through liberty bond drives, home gardens, as well as meatless and wheatless days.

1915 — Jules Smith is murdered by a mob on the courthouse steps in Winnsboro, SC. The sheriff and deputy sheriff escorting Smith to his trial are also murdered

1917 — The 371st Infantry Regiment, an all African-American unit composed of many South Carolinians, trains at Ft. Jackson. Almost half of all South Carolinians serving in World War I are African-American

1918 — World War I ends

1918 — The influenza pandemic begins, caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin

The influenza pandemic of 1918 infected approximately one-third of the population of the United States and killed an estimated 675,000. Globally, roughly 500 million people were infected, with a death toll estimated at least 50 million. 

1919 — The Charleston Riot of 1919 begins late the evening of May 10th, igniting the "Red Summer" during which dozens of African-Americans are killed and lynched in racially-motivated riotous disturbances.

1967 — The Loving v. Virginia case ends all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States

1998 — A South Carolina referendum to remove the interracial marriage ban from its state constitution passes (62%-38%).


Research by Arminda Thomas


Arminda Thomas is the Dramaturge of Wedding Band. She is a resident dramaturg and a producing member of CLASSIX. Selected dramaturgy credits include The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window (Brooklyn Academy of Music); Death of a Salesman (Hudson Theatre); Wedding Band (Theatre for a New Audience); Black Picture Show (Artists Space); Mirrors (Next Door at New York Theatre Workshop); Black History Museum...According to the United States of America (HERE Arts Center); Jazz (Marin Theatre Company). She previously served as archivist and dramaturg for Dee-Davis Enterprises, where she was an executive producer for the Grammy-awarded audiobook, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, and consultant for the film Life's Essentials with Ruby Dee.