The legend of Henry Berry Lowry: Strike at the Wind! and the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina

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Oakley, Christopher Arris. “The legend of Henry Berry Lowry: Strike at the Wind! and the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina.” Mississippi quarterly 60.1 (Winter/Spring 2007): 59–80. Key source


This article is a richly detailed, clearly written history of the outdoor drama Strike at the Wind!, from the planning stages in 1968, to the first opening night of its premiere season (July 1, 1976), through its reopening under the auspices of the Carolina Arts Network in the summer of 2006. Oakley provides a concise, clear summary of the late-nineteenth-century historical events portrayed in Strike at the Wind!. He also explains the subsequent position of the Lumbee in tri-racial Robeson County, especially when the North Carolina Constitution, state laws, and local practices made the Lumbee disenfranchised and increasingly separate. Thus, Oakley's cultural, political, and historical overview provides crucial context for Henry Berry Lowry's coming to be viewed, by the time Strike at the Wind! premiered, as the folk hero of the Lumbee.

Along the way, Oakley discusses the outdoor drama's predecessor, The Life-Story of a People. This pageant on Lumbee history, written by Ellen C. Deloria, was performed with a mostly local cast of 150, in 1940 and 1941. He explains the other factors at play during the planning stages of the drama as well. He discusses interest in bringing in tourist revenues; growing interest, in the late 1960s, in Native American culture; the popular as well as financial success of other outdoor dramas in North Carolina; and a desire to educate people about the history of the Lumbee, who had attained a limited form of federal recognition in 1956.Oakley also traces decisions such as which time periods and historical events the drama should focus on and who would write the play and compose the music. He reviews earlier fictional accounts of Henry Berry Lowry, briefly contrasting their treatment of him with Umberger's in the Strike at the Wind! script.

The article also describes concerns, during the development period, about casting; creative control of the play; and finances for building the amphitheater and producing the play. The article traces attendance, casting changes, and commentary on the play in local newspapers in the first few seasons; it then touches on the increasing financial struggles in the 1990s and the production lapses of 1996–1998 and 2004–2005.Most importantly, Oakley relates Henry Berry Lowry and Strike at the Wind! to Lumbee cultural identity and pride. The article concludes with Carolina Arts Network's acquisition of the rights to Strike at the Wind! in 2005, its aims for the drama, and its reopening at the of the production in 2006. There is also a summation of the position Strike at the Wind! came to hold in Lumbee society and as a manifestation of Lumbee identity.

This article is a useful and much-needed contribution to the scholarship on Strike at the Wind! and on Henry Berry Lowry.

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