HIS-STORY: AUGUST WILSON, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, EXTRAORDINAIRE
In honor of Black History 2021, I am delighted to highlight and introduce you to August Wilson, born Frederick August Kittel on April 27, 1945. His parents Frederick Kittel and Daisy Wilson, divorced, leaving his mother to raise August and his 5 siblings alone.
The family relocated from Pittsburg’s Bedford Avenue area to Oakland, where Frederick faced relentless bigotry by his classmates. After transferring multiple times, at the age of 15, he pursued an independent education at Carnegie Library and earned his high school diploma.
After his father died (1965), at the age of 20, Frederick adopted his stage name “August Wilson” and declared himself a poet. Famed an American playwright, he wrote his first notable play, “Jitney,” in 1979. In 1980 his new play, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” was accepted at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrite Conference. Followed by “Fences,” his first Broadway play earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony in 1987. In 1990, he won another Pulitzer Prize for “The Piano Lesson” following its Broadway premiere.
A collection of Augusts’ work was published in book form in 1991, entitled “Three plays by August Wilson.”
In 1996 “Seven Guitars” premiered on the Broadway stage, followed by “King Hedley II” in 2001 and “Gem of the Ocean” in 2004. Many refer to August as the “Theater’s Poet of Black American.” Best known a series of 10 plays collectively referred to as “The Pittsburg Cycle.”
Mr. Wilson received several notable honors during his career, including seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for best play. He also held Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships. After his death, the Virginia Theater on Broadway was renamed in his honor. The August Wilson Center for African American Culture opened in Pittsburg in 2009.
The August Wilson stamp is the 44th stamp in the Black Heritage series. The stamps feature an oil painting of August from 2005; the picket fence alludes to the fact of his notable play “Fences.”. The stamp honors Mr. Wilson’s dedication and accomplishments as a Trailblazer and Extraordinaire, and it will forever be held equal in value as noted by the USPS.
Thank you, Mr. Wilson, for the extraordinary talents that you shared. May your contribution be forever remembered throughout the ages to come.
*August Wilson died October 2, 2005, leaving behind two daughters, Shakina and Azula.
*Read more of August Wilson’s biography: http://www.biography.com/writer/august-wilson
*August Wilson Stamp/USPS: https://store.usps.com/store/product/buy-stamps/august-wilson-S_480004
*Photo Credit: Wikipedia; *None of the photos shown belong to Jeanie Shepard Ministries.