87 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-88754-592-0
DDC C812'.54




Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University.


As Florence Gibson’s award-winning play opens, newly freed
African-Americans Belle and Bowlyn leave postbellum Georgia for the
opportunities they hope to find in the north. A charwoman and a taxi
driver respectively, Belle and Bowlyn are literally bowled over by
Nance, a white feminist whose public protests create messes that Belle
and Bowlyn are left to clean up. The overturned slop bucket, in
Belle’s case, and the charge for creating a public disturbance, in
Bowlyn’s, neatly represent the havoc that the apparently well-meaning
Nance (who presents herself as the couple’s champion and protector)
creates in their lives.

Without overloading the plot with historical detail, Gibson expertly
encapsulates the political tensions of the time, including the conflicts
between the once closely allied feminist and abolitionist movements.
Belle and Bowlyn are pulled apart as the political parties represented
by Nance and Lackey (a white man who encourages Bowlyn to campaign for
the rights of black men) use them to advance their own agendas. For
Belle and Bowlyn, disillusionment comes with the realization that their
rights are viewed as expendable by those who seek to manipulate them.

In this lyrical, tightly constructed play, Gibson uses humor and pathos
to make Belle and Bowlyn’s plight resonate with modern audiences.


Gibson, Florence., “Belle,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,