AUGUST WILSON Biography - Writers


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August Wilson (April 27, 1945 - October 2, 2005)                                       
is one of the most influential writers in American theater. He is best                 
known for his unprecedented cycle of 10 plays, often called the Pittsburgh Cycle       
because all but one play is set in the Pittsburgh neighborhood where August             
Wilson grew up. The series of plays chronicle the tragedies and aspirations of         
African Americans during each decade of the 20th century.                               
The son of a white father and a black mother, August Wilson was born Frederick         
August Kittel on April 27, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father, also           
called Frederick August Kittle, was a German immigrant and baker and spent very         
little time with the family. His mother, Daisy Wilson, raised August and his           
five siblings in a small, two-bedroom apartment in the poor Hill District               
neighborhood of Pittsburgh, working hard as a cleaning lady to put food on the         
When August Wilson was a teenager, his mother married David Bedford and the             
family moved to Hazelwood, a predominately white working-class neighborhood.           
There and in school, August and his family encountered threats and racial               
hostility. After going through several different high schools, including a year         
at Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School, August Wilson eventually dropped out       
of school all together, at the age of 15, turning instead to self-education at         
the Carnegie Library.                                                                   
After his father died in 1965, August Wilson officially changed his name to             
honor his mother. That same year, he purchased his first typewriter and began to       
write poetry. Drawn to the theater and inspired by the civil rights movement, in       
1968 August Wilson co-founded the Black Horizons Theatre in the Hill District of       
Pittsburgh with his friend, Joe Penny.                                                 
His early work failed to gain much attention, but his third play, "Ma Rainey's         
Black Bottom" (1982), about a group of black musicians discussing their                 
experiences in racist America, won August Wilson wide recognition as a dramatist       
and interpreter of the African American experience.                                     
Awards & Recognition: August Wilson's series of plays brought him recognition as       
one of America's most celebrated dramatists and earned him numerous awards,             
among them the Tony Award (1985), the New York Drama Critics Circle Award (1985)       
and the Pulitzer Prize for drama (1990). The Virginia Theater on Broadway in NYC       
was renamed the August Wilson Theater in his honor in 2005, and the African             
American Cultural Center of Greater Pittsburgh was renamed the August Wilson           
Center for African American Culture in 2006.                                           
The Pittsburgh Cycle of Plays:                                                         
In 10 separate plays, each covering a different decade of the 20th century,             
August Wilson explored the lives, dreams, triumphs and tragedies of African-American   
history and culture. Often called the "Pittsburgh Cycle," all but one of the           
plays is set in the Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh where August Wilson       
grew up.