Critics have hailed August Wilson as an authentic voice of African American culture. His plays explore the black experience historically and in the context of deeper metaphysical roots in African culture. Since 1984, his major plays have been successfully produced by regional theaters and on Broadway; in fact, he was the first African American playwright to have had two plays running on Broadway simultaneously.
Wilson received an impressive array of fellowships, awards, and honorary degrees: the Jerome Fellowship in 1980, the Bush Foundation Fellowship in 1982, membership in the New Dramatists starting in 1983, and the Rockefeller Fellowship in 1984. He was also an associate of Playwrights Center, Minneapolis, and received the McKnight Fellowship in 1985, the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986, six New York Drama Critics Circle Awards from 1985 to 2001, the Whiting Foundation Award in 1986, the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1987 (for Fences) and 1990 (for The Piano Lesson), the Tony Award by the League of New York Theatres and Producers (for Fences), the American Theatre Critics Award in 1986, the Outer Circle Award in 1987, and the Drama Desk Award and John Gassner Award in 1987.
Wilson’s goals were “to concretize the black cultural response to the world, to place that response in loud action, so as to create a dramatic literature as powerful and sustaining as black American music.” While the form of his plays breaks no new ground, the substance and language produce powerful emotional responses. Rooted in the black experience, Wilson’s plays touch universal chords.