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Published in: Law, Culture and the Humanities, Volume 4, Number 2 (2008)


August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson features a debate between an African American brother and sister over the ownership of a richly symbolic piano, a family heirloom that represents the Charles family’s slave heritage and its endurance through Reconstruction. Ownership questions like the one presented in The Piano Lesson can usually be resolved in the courts, but Wilson’s play suggests that the law might be unable to resolve property disputes so problematically entangled with the legacy of slavery. Wilson offers, instead, a non-legal resolution to the piano debate presented in his play.

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