Black History Month

Born Frederick August Kittel Jr. in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in 1945. The African American playwright won Pulitzers for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990) which were stories that depicted celebrate the history and poetry of African Americans.

August Wilson’s father did not live with the family, so he took his mother’s maiden name in honor of her.  Living in predominantly white communities, Wilson dropped out of school and spent most of his time at the library.

As he tried to further his career as a writer, he worked as a cook, porter, a gardener and a dishwasher. He later founded the Black Horizon Theater in Pittsburgh with his friend.  He began to write and produce more of his plays.  He wrote more than 16 plays. He won a Tony for Fences and several awards and honors. He died in 2005 of liver cancer.

Black History Month

Her pen name was J California Cooper, but Joan Cooper wrote more than 17 plays, novels and short stories. Born in Berkeley, California in 1931, she tried to be careful not to give out too much personal information.

She was the Black Playwright of the Year which led to other amazing things. Alice Walker advised her to try her hand at writing books and it turned out to be a good thing. Cooper won American Book Award for Homemade Love, James Baldwin Writing Award, and the Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association.

Her short story Funny Valentines was made into a television movie starring Alfre Woodard and Loretta Devine.

“I’m a Christian” Cooper told a newspaper, “That’s all I am. If it came down to Christianity and writing, I’d let the writing go. God is bigger than a book,” Cooper said in the Washington Post in 2000.

She died at the age of 82 in 2014.

Black History Month

Born in the Senegal/Gambia region of West Africa, Phyllis Wheatley was probably about seven years old when she was capture by slavers. Because she was small and thought to be ill, she was sold to a tailor and his family.

The Wheatley family of Boston taught their young slave how to read and write, once they saw she had a desire to learn. She began writing poetry, which they encouraged.

Her first book of poetry was published in 1773, when she and one of her slave owners went to London to promote her work. She was introduced to prominent people, one of which took an interest in her work and helped her publish it. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral brought fame to her in the UK and the USA.

The Wheatley’s emancipated Phyllis after her book was published. She later married John Peters, a free African American man. They struggle with poverty and giving birth to a child. She died December 5, 1784 at the age of 31.

Black History Month

James Baldwin Video

James Baldwin was an American and activist born in 1924 and educated in Harlem. Unhappy with segregation and the overall treatment of African Americans, Baldwin moved to Paris France at the age of 24.

His work includes Go Tell It On The Mountain, The Amen Corner, If Beale Street Could Talks and many more.

Black History Month

This Week is about movies. We will take a quick glance at what some amazing African American actors have done. Today meet Dorothy Dandridge.

Dorothy Dandridge was an entertainer and actress that starred on stage and screen in the late 1940s and 1950s. She performed at the Cotton Club at the age of 16 with her sisters as a trio. She starred in a series of low budget films in the early 1940s like Drums in the Congo and The Hit Parade of 1943.

Carmen Jones, a film based off the opera Carmen, made her a star and earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. It was the first time an African American had been nominated for a leading actor role. She was also one of the first actresses to play roles where there were interracial relationships.

She struggled for good acting parts, even going to Europe in hopes of landing better roles. She did not find much.

Her last important movie was Porgy and Bess (1959) with Sidney Poitier, Pearl Bailey and Sammy Davis, Jr. By this time, Dandridge had perfected the role of playing the bad black woman who refused to go right.

In 1965, Dandridge died of an overdose of anti depression pills.

This information is from Donald Bogle’s Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks.

Black History Month

Sir Sidney Poitier is a Bahamian American citizen, actor and director. He is the first person of color to win an Academy Award in the Best Actor category. Which is your favorite Sidney Poitier film?

  • No Way Out (1950)
  • Blackboard Jungle (1955)
  • Defiant Ones (1958)
  • Porgy and Bess (1959)
  • A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
  • Lilies of the Field (1963)
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
  • To Sir, With Love (1967)
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
  • In The Heat of the Night (1967)
  • Buck and Preacher (1972)
  • Uptown Saturday Night (1974)

A Rich Theatrical History

Bert Williams was one of the best comedians that had ever lived. In 1902, Williams worked with a partner, George Walker to create an all African American production titled, In Dahomey, with music by Will Marion Cook and lyrics by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. It was the first All African American production to be done in a Broadway theater. The production traveled to London and did a command performance for Buckingham Palace in 1903.

They also signed a limited contract to record some of the songs from the musical. George Walker died in 1911.

Despite segregation, Williams went on to worked for Ziegfeld Follies with talent like Fannie Brice and Leon Errol in 1910 making an annual salary of 62,000 a year.

He was the type of performer who never quit. He performed with pneumonia one evening and passed out. The audience laughed because they thought it was part of the act. He died March 4, 1922. He was 47 years old.

Black History Month

Tomorrow starts Black History Month. Join me on the journey and a learn a few new things you might not have known. Lets enjoy being African American. We aren’t perfect, but we sure are fun. Also lets honor the history of African Americans which has been misreported and ignored.

Join me in February as I uplift the race on this site, UPP Creative and Black Gyrl Art on Facebook, and @blackgyrlart on Instagram.