Department of Africana Studies

About Our Founders

George Houston Bass and Rhett S. Jones

George Houston Bass

A scanned image of George Houston Bass on the cover of Black Masks Magazine, Dec/Jan 1991

George Houston Bass (1938-1990), Founder and Artistic Director of Rites and Reason Theatre was educated at Fisk University, New York University, and Yale University. From 1973 until his death, he was Professor of Theatre Arts and Afro-American Studies at Brown University.

Bass is the author of numerous plays, including Black Masque, Malacoff Blue, and De Day of No 'Mo. He has worked as a director throughout the country. Brer Rabbit Whole was first produced at Fisk University, and a revised version was produced by Rites & Reason in 1985. 

Bass' Black Masque was part of Rites & Reason's 25th Anniversary Season. Professor Bass was also the editor of The Langston Hughes Review, the official organ of the Langston Hughes Society.

Bass's work has been acknowledged by the American Society of Cinematologists winning the Rosenthal Award in 1964 and the Plaque of the Lion of St. Marc at the 1967 Venice Film Festival. Professor Bass also received a John Hay Whitney Fellowship, a John Golden Fellowship from the Yale University School of Drama, a Harlem Cultural Council Grant, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, and a Fulbright Research Grant.


Rhett S. Jones

A scanned image of George Houston Bass and Rhett S. Jones on the cover of Brown Alumni Monthly, May 1986

Rhett S. Jones '72 AM, '76 PhD joined the Brown faculty in 1969 as an associate professor of history and Afro-American studies. His academic specialties included African American history before 1800, African American theater, Caribbean history before 1840, and race relations in colonial America. Soon after arriving at Brown he cofounded and became research director of Rites and Reason Theatre.

In 1972, he helped organize the Sankore Society, the University's organization of Black faculty, administrators, and personnel. He served as chairman of the Transitional Summer Program Review Committee in 1975 (a precursor to the Third World Transition Program), and from 1976 to 1978 he participated in the first minority review committee to aid the Admission Office in decisions regarding minority applicants. 

In 1991 he was appointed director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. His work extended into the black community of Rhode Island, where he served on several boards and committees, such as the Black Studies Consortium of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Black Task Force on Higher Education, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, and the state chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. 


Rites and Reason is one of the oldest continuously producing Black theatres in the nation.
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