August Wilson Essay

Submitted By nerdygurl17
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August Wilson Frederick August Kittel, Jr was born April 27, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Frederick August Kittel, Sr. and Daisy Wilson. He was the fourth of six children, and was raised by his mother “in the black slum of Pittsburgh”(Gale). His father was a German immigrant who never really made an appearance in the apartment. Wilson officially cut all ties with his father when he took his mother’s name in 1965. Wilson learned to read at age four and from then on consumed books voraciously. Sick of racist attacks and slander, he dropped out of school at 15 after being accused by his teacher of plagiarizing a twenty page term paper, and started reading more works by African American authors. As an avid reader, he was also an avid listener, and used snippets of conversation he overheard to form his stories. Wilson decided he wanted to be a writer in his late teens, but didn’t really kick off his career until his twenties, when he bought his first typewriter. When Wilson discovered the writings of Malcolm X he took up the banner of cultural nationalism. "Cultural nationalism meant black people working toward self-definition, self-determination," Wilson said. "It meant that we had a culture that was valid and that we weren't willing to trade it to participate in the American Dream." (Gale) In 1969 Wilson and Rob Penny, a playwright and teacher, founded the black activist theater company Black Horizons on the Hill, which gave Wilson the chance to present his own plays. His early works failed to get attention, but his play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in 1982 won Wilson wide recognition as “a dramatist and interpreter of the African American Experience”(About.com). Wilson pulled his ideas from overheard conversations and his life experiences. His stepfather, for example, was the inspiration for the character Troy in “Fences”. He also gained inspiration from artists. When speaking on Romare Bearden, he said “When I saw his work, it was the first time I had seen black life presented in all its richness, and I said ‘I want to do that – I want my plays to be the equal of his canvases.’”(About.com) His series of ten plays called “The Pittsburgh Cycle” were aimed to sketch the black experience during the 20th century. The plays are not strictly connected in a serial sort of way, but characters do pop up in more than one story, the most…