Learn More About August Wilson Through Orchard's "People Project"

The “People Project” is not just a reflection on Black History Month, but rather a way to illuminate important Black voices whose stories go unheard. It is important for us to become familiar with more names, learn about more people, and get others talking about the significant work that so many have done and/or are still doing to promote and move forward the work of social justice. 

The more we learn, the more we can uplift accomplishments and acknowledge the contributions to our greater society by so many who have come before and walk with us today. The “People Project” will feature those who have changed ways of thinking, paved the way for others, and fight for what they stand for. Black History Month is the perfect time to launch the “People Project.” We are excited to continue this project throughout the remainder of the year as we will highlight other important voices in the months to follow. 

-Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lisa Pryor


The American playwright known as August Wilson was born Fredrick August Kittel. His mother was African American and his father was a German immigrant. After his parents divorced, August, his mother, and his siblings moved to a predominantly white neighborhood where he was often discriminated against during school. This led him to move around from school to school until he finally got his high school diploma from independent studies at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. 

He took on his pen name of August Wilson when he declared himself a poet at the age of twenty. In 1968 August and Rob Penny co-founded the Black Horizon Theatre. Nearly ten years later his first play, Jitney, was produced and earned him a fellowship at the Minneapolis Playwright Center. In 1991 a collection of his plays named Three Plays was published into a book. Before his death in 2005 Wilson successfully wrote sixteen plays, 10 of which were included in the Pittsburgh Cycle

He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for the play ‘Fences,’ which was turned into an award-winning movie starring Viola Davis and Denzel Washington. He then went on to earn a second Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Piano Lesson’. Wilson’s work is still highly noted as the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom just released on Netflix in November of 2020. Just after his death, he became the first African American to have a Broadway theatre named after him when the Virginia Theatre in New York was renamed the August Wilson Theatre.

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