1948 December 10

“Respectful Prostitute” Play Banned in Chicago Over Race Issues


The play The Respectful Prostitute, by the noted French writer Jean-Paul Sartre, was banned in Chicago on this day. Chicago theater and film censor Harry Fulmer argued that the play would offend African-Americans. The play involves an incident that occurred on a train where an African-American man was falsely accused of attacking a white woman, when in fact a white man perpetrated the attack. National NAACP Director Walter White gave the play his “unqualified endorsement,” but was unsuccessful in preventing the ban.

In addition to the Chicago censorship, some people in the U.S. accused Sartre, known for his leftist politics, of being “un-American.”

The play is believed to be loosely based, or at least inspired by the famous 1930’s Scottsboro case in the U.S., in which nine young African American males were accused of rape by two white women in Alabama.

Read the play and decide for yourself about its racial implications: Jean-Paul Sartre, The Respectful Prostitute (1946)

Read: John H. Houchin, Censorship of the American Theater in the Twentieth Century (2003)

Watch excerpts from the play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciDmz6iYsOk

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