74 pages 2 hours read

August Wilson

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1984

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Important Quotes

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“Everything changing all the time. Even the air you breathing change. You got monoxide, hydrogen… changing all the time. Skin changing…different molecules and everything.”

(Act I, Page 15)

Toledo’s response to Levee’s complaint about the changed layout in the studio is flippant, but also prescient. In 1927, there is plenty of pending change. The music business is changing, as Sturdyvant points out. The blues are changing as they become more mainstream and attract more white audiences. In 1927, Ma Rainey’s career is coming to a close as a new style of the blues becomes popular, eclipsing the genre’s founders. Toledo is spending his last day on earth, which will continue to change and shift after he’s gone. Levee’s life is about to change forever, and not in the way he expects. Throughout the play, Toledo talks about change, including a belief in social change for a society that oppresses African Americans.

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“Everybody got style. Style and nothing but keeping the same idea from beginning to end. Everybody got it.”

(Act I, Page 18)

As he does throughout the play, Toledo takes a long view of history. He has educated himself and sees the big picture. He has also been in the music business for a long time. While Levee believes that his music will be revolutionary, Toledo recognizes that trends come and go. Where Ma Rainey was once a revelation, she is now phasing out of