August Wilson, playwright giant, 1945-2005

August Wilson, award winning playwright, died Sunday, October 2, 2005, of liver cancer.

Mr. Wilson, a high school dropout who then devoted himself to education by inhaling knowledge at his local Pittsburgh public library, originally intended on being a poet. But his drive to celebrate the African American experience exploded onto paper in the form of a cycle of ten plays that forever shaped how this country sees the real Black America. The first entry in his cycle, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, was produced on Broadway in 1984. Fences, another in the cycle, won a Pulitzer in 1987, as did The Piano Lesson, in 1990. The last play in this historic body of work, Radio Golf, opened at the Yale Repertory Theater in the spring of 2005, and is the only one in the cycle that has not yet appeared on Broadway.
Mr. Wilson was 60.


I had the fortunate opportunity to meet with Mr. August and participate in a one-day workshop for playwrights in Los Angeles, of which he was our facillitator. What I most recall about the event was the amazing amount of energy and passion he brought to our group, he was inspiring, a very good teacher and grounded in a black asthetics that I have never known. As a black woman who had grown up in Ann Arbor and then ventured to other cities for short term habitation, it had never dawned on me that I could and would right from a perspective uniquely my own.
Although his death is completely a shock to my soul, I am cherishing more and more each day the gift that I received of being apart of the workshop that was held just last year.
His plays were amongst the first plays that I read for guidance in my attempt to become a playwright and I promise to take a little piece of him into my writing space, for his spirit will live on and be reflective in the creative expressions of folk like me who understand the importance and impact of our ancestors.
Thank you Mr. Wilson for for having the courage to tell the truth and thank you for being the light for others who want to tell the truth as well.

Thank you for sharing your important experience. Your honor Mr. Wilson's lifelong wish to change lives in exactly the way you describe. You, and all those he touched, ARE his legacy.