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August Wilson Biography

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August Wilson

Any person that can rise up from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top is able to achieve great things in life. Renowned playwright August Wilson, a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, and other awards for his work, is an example of such persons. He grew up in a lower class black family, faced the difficulties of an African American, and turned himself into the great writer he is.

August Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel on April 27, 1945 to Daisy Wilson and Frederick Kittel. His father was a German immigrant, who rarely visited his family. His mother had walked up from North Carolina to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania on foot where she cared for August and his five other siblings, while at the same time, she worked as a cleaning woman. August went to school, all the while delivering newspapers to provide what little income possible.

In his early years, August displayed a large interest in reading. When his family moved to Hazelwood in Pittsburg from the Hill District, it became a challenge to keep up his education, along with life with his stepfather David Bedford. Often he and his family faced racism, notes like "Nigger, go home" would be placed on his desk, and on their first day, a brick was thrown through their front window. He dropped out of school after being accused of plagiarism for a twenty-page paper on Napoleon. Thereafter, he continued his education through the Negro section in the library and the conversations during his job at a cafй shop. Then he enlisted in the Army for three years, serving only a year before being discharged.

It was then that he began to pursue a writing career. At the time he got his first typewriter, he was also introduced to the blues and the black rights movement, of which both had great influences on his writing. Also during that time, he dropped his birth father's name. Though he was unable to succeed in poetry, he was able to transition himself into a successful playwright. After visiting a friend in St. Paul, Minnesota, he decided to stay. At the urging of his friend, he wrote his first play, Jitney, set in a gypsy-cab station, and another following that, Fullerton Street. Only afterwards was he able to concentrate solely on composing, eventually producing Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, his breakthrough product, which was based on a blues singer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey. Then he wrote Joe Turner's



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