- NAME: August Wilson
- OCCUPATION: Playwright
- BIRTH DATE: April 27, 1945
- DEATH DATE: October 02, 2005
- EDUCATION: St. Richard's Parochial School, Gladstone High School, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Connelly Vocational High School, Central Catholic High School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- PLACE OF DEATH: Seattle, Washington
- Originally: Frederick August Kittel Jr.
- Full Name: August Wilson
- AKA: Frederick August Kittel
- AKA: Frederick Kittel
Best Known For
African-American playwright August Wilson won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for his play Fences, and earned a second Pulitzer Prize for The Piano Lesson.
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Famed playwright August Wilson was born on April 27, 1945, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He wrote his first play, Jitney, in 1979. Fences earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award in 1987. Wilson won another Pulitzer Prize in 1990, for The Piano Lesson. In 1996, Seven Guitars premiered on the Broadway stage, followed by King Hedley II in 2001 and Gem of the Ocean in 2004. Wilson died on October 2, 2005, in Seattle, Washington.
"Never is it suggested that playwrights like David Mamet or Terrence McNally are limiting themselves to whiteness. The idea that we are trying to escape from the ghetto of black culture is insulting."
"I once wrote a short story called 'The Best Blues Singer in the World' and it went like this: 'The streets that Balboa walked were his own private ocean, and Balboa was drowning.' End of story. That says it all. Nothing else to say. I've been rewriting that same story over and over again. All my plays are rewriting that same story. I'm not sure what it means, other than life is hard."
"I think my plays offer (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans. For instance, in 'Fences' they see a garbageman, a person they don't really look at, although they see a garbageman every day. By looking at Troy's life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman's life is affected by the same things—love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives."
Playwright August Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 27, 1945. His mother, Daisy Wilson, was of African-American heritage. His father was a German immigrant named Frederick Kittel.
As a child, Kittel attended St. Richard's Parochial School. When his parents divorced, he, his mother and his siblings moved from the poor Bedford Avenue area of Pittsburgh to a mostly white suburb in the Oakland section. After facing the relentless bigotry of his classmates at Central Catholic High School, he transferred to Connelly Vocational High School, and later to Gladstone High School. When he was 15 years old, Wilson pursued an independent education at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where he would earn his high school diploma.
Following his father's death in 1965, a 20-year-old Frederick Kittel adopted the pen name "August Wilson"—reportedly an homage to his mother—and declared himself a poet. In 1968, Wilson and a friend, Rob Penny, co-founded the Black Horizon Theater. The following year, Wilson married Brenda Burton. The couple welcomed a daughter, Sakina, in 1970; they divorced two years later.
Wilson remained primarily focused on making it as a poet—largely to no avail—until moving to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1978.
August Wilson wrote his first notable play in 1979, Jitney, for which he earned a fellowship at the Minneapolis Playwright Center.
In 1981, Wilson married Judy Oliver. The following year, his new play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, was accepted at the Eugene O'Neill Playwright's Conference. The year 1982 was particularly fruitful for Wilson, as it marked his introduction to Lloyd Richards, who went on to direct Wilson's first six Broadway plays.
Wilson's play Fences premiered on Broadway in 1987, earning the playwright his first Pultizer Prize as well as a Tony Award. Joe Turner opened on Broadway in 1988.
Wilson divorced Judy Oliver in 1990. He took home another Pulitzer Prize that same year, this time for The Piano Lesson, following its Broadway premiere.
A collection of Wilson's work, entitled Three Plays by August Wilson, was published in book form in 1991. The following year brought the Broadway premiere of Two Trains Running.
In 1994, Wilson married for the third time, to a costume designer named Constanza Romero. Seven Guitars made its way to the Broadway stage two years later, followed by the birth of Wilson's and Romero's daughter, Azula, in 1997.
King Hedley II made its Broadway debut in 2001, and Gem of the Ocean premiered in Chicago roughly a year later.
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They are the famous African-American writers who have fearlessly examined cultural stigmas, provided intimate life details, presented new ideas and created remarkable fiction through literary works. For their prophetic genius, these men and women have received Pulitzer Prizes, NAACP awards and even Nobel Prizes, among other honors. Our list of prominent African-American authors includes Toni Morrison, who has detailed the lives of black characters who struggle with identity amidst racism and hostility; Langston Hughes, a founder of the Harlem Renaissance; and Maya Angelou, who has eloquently chronicled various eras of her life through her autobiographies.
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