August Wilson is best known for a series of ten plays collectively called The Pittsburgh Cycle. Plays in the series include Fences, The Piano Lesson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Wilson converted to Islam and had one daughter, Ansari Sakina Sakari, in 1968. He later wrote under his mother’s surname, August Wilson, after his father’s death in 1965.
About August Wilson in brief
August Wilson is best known for a series of ten plays collectively called The Pittsburgh Cycle. Plays in the series include Fences, The Piano Lesson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He struggled with finding a sense of belonging to a particular culture and didn’t feel that he truly fit into African American culture or white culture until later in life. Both the Nation of Islam and the Black Power movement spoke to him regarding self-sufficiency, self-defense, and self-determination. He converted to Islam and had one daughter, Ansari Sakina Sakari, in 1968. He later wrote under his mother’s surname, August Wilson, after his father’s death in 1965. In 1969 Wilson married a Muslim woman, Brenda Burton, and had a daughter, Brenda Sakina, in 1972. He died in a car accident in 1994. He is survived by his wife, Brenda, and two daughters, Ansina and Brenda Sakari. He was buried in Pittsburgh, where he lived with his wife and three children. He also had a son, Frederick August Wilson III, who died in 2005. He had a grandson, Frederick, who is now the mayor of Pittsburgh and a son-in-law, David Bedford, who lives in New York City. Wilson died in 2011 at the age of 89. He has a son and daughter, Frederick and Daisy Wilson, who are both still living in Pittsburgh and have two children, both of whom are in their early 20s.
Wilson had an “astonishing memory for catching dialect and accents,” which he put to full use during his career. He learned to read at the aged of four and began reading black writers at the library when he was 12 and spent the remainder of his teen years educating himself through the books of Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Arna Bontemps, and others. Wilson knew that he wanted to be a writer, but this created tension with his mother, who wanted him to become a lawyer. At 20, he decided he was a poet and submitted work to such magazines as Harper’s. He bought a stolen typewriter for USD 10, which he often pawned when money was tight. He liked to write on cafe napkins, which made him less self-conscious as a writer. He then gather up the notes and type them up at home because it freed him up because it was full of accents and dialects. His experiences growing up there with a strong matriarch shaped the way his plays would be written. Wilson’s extensive use of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh resulted in its later awarding him an honorary high school diploma. He dropped out of Gladstone High School in the 10th grade in 1960 after his teacher accused him of plagiarizing a 20-page paper he wrote on Napoleon I of France. His mother divorced his father and married David Bedford in the 1950s, and the family moved from the then predominantly white working-class neighborhood of Hazelwood.