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The wider world primarily knows Alma W. Thomas as an African American visual artist who, despite the challenges of race, gender, and age, produced a coherent body of brightly colored nature-based abstractions that made her world famous in the late 1970s. What remains virtually unknown, however, is the artist’s involvement with puppet theater and related professional activities. During the summers of 1925, 1930, and 1934, Thomas studied at Columbia University’s Teachers College, where she earned an M.A. in arts education; post-graduate coursework with acknowledged marionette expert Tony Sarg followed. The pedagogical theories of John Dewey, who taught at Columbia 1905–1930, clearly manifest in Thomas’s thesis. Incorporating ideas about student-guided and cooperative learning in her approach, Thomas astutely employed a puppet performance of Alice in Wonderland as the framework for her “whole school” method of instruction. This essay presents a critical overview and brief analysis of Alma Thomas’ almost completely unexamined marionettes and the productions in which they played a part.

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puppetry, performing objects, African American culture


African American Studies | Africana Studies | Arts and Humanities | Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Theatre and Performance Studies

Alma W. Thomas: “The Marionette Show as a Correlating Activity in the Public Schools”