Mule Bone is the only collaboration between Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, two stars of the Harlem Renaissance, and it holds an unparalleled place in the annals of African-American theater. Set in Eatonville, Florida–Hurston’s hometown and the inspiration for much of her fiction–this energetic and often farcical play centers on Jim and Dave, a two-man song-and-dance team, and Daisy, the woman who comes between them. Overcome by jealousy, Jim hits Dave with a mule bone and hilarity follows chaos as the town splits into two factions: the Methodists, who want to pardon Jim; and the Baptists, who wish to banish him for his crime.
Included in this edition is the fascinating account of the Mule Bone copyright dispute between Hurston and Hughes that ended their friendship and prevented the play from being performed until its debut production at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York City in 1991–sixty years after it was written. Also included is “The Bone of Contention,” Hurston’s short story on which the play was based; personal and often heated correspondence between the authors; and critical essays that illuminate the play and the dazzling period that came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance.