Katori Hall's "Mountaintop"
Memphis was forced by her mother to miss Martin Luther King's final "Mountaintop" speech. Feeling the ominous vibrations in the air, she kept her daughter home. As it turned out, of course, the young, black teenager would probably have been safe enough that night, but King was assassinated the next day.
In The Mountaintop, Hall writes her mother into history as a maid who brings King a cup of coffee at the Lorraine Motel after he gave that speech. Camae (her mother's actual name) sashays into room 306, and instead of being awed by the great preacher and civil rights leader, she challenges him to every kind of moral, intellectual, and emotional duel--at one point, standing on the bed and wearing King's jacket and shoes, she even out-preaches him.
The New Yorker profile of the playwright on a visit to her mother in Memphis is worth reading for its unspoken bittersweet message. Hall comes off as kind of a pill, but when she came of age, her fearless, provocative personality flew like a homing pigeon to where it still thrives: big-city, world-class theater. Before her play went up on Broadway (starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett!), she was the darling of London's West End, where she won the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play. That same personality, though, didn't serve her mother so well in 1960s Memphis, or the following decades either, where she just couldn't seem to catch a break in anything she did.