Adrienne Lita Hawkins Kennedy was born on September 13, 1931, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cornell Wallace Hawkins and Etta Haugabook Hawkins. After Kennedy learned to read at three years of age, she became a voracious reader who had moved alphabetically through her local library’s shelves before she reached high school.
In 1935, Kennedy’s family moved to an integrated, middle-class neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. Both parents, college graduates and professionals, influenced Kennedy’s writing style: her mother, through humorous stories edged with pathos; her father, a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) branch executive director, through nightly recitations of the poetry of Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and others. Active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Urban League, both parents instilled in Kennedy the importance of having a positive impact upon the world.
Throughout her elementary and her high-school years, Kennedy continued to be an all-consuming reader and a superb achiever. In fact, one of her elementary school teachers cautioned her mother that Kennedy could make herself ill from her own high expectations of herself.
Not until she began her freshman year at Ohio State University in 1949 did she experience overt racism that caused her to question her own identity. No longer was she judged on her abilities and her achievements; suddenly, she found herself prejudged on the basis of the color of her skin. The wrenching theme of a personal identity raging in a dissonant universe pervades Kennedy’s writings.
With the limited possibilities of education or social work for a major, Kennedy chose education. Although she satisfactorily completed the required course work, she did so without her customary intellectual avidity. In her senior...
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Kennedy counterpoints a polished poetic style with brutal synaesthetic imagery that engulfs those who experience her works. This process generates in her audiences an empathic recognition of the truth inherent in her vision, as well as a hypnotic tension that is further accentuated by her use of rhythm, ritual, repetition, and myth.
Kennedy exorcises her unconscious demons onstage. As such, her plays are a challenge to theater practitioners. Nevertheless, through her writing, she intimately captures and shares the essence of the human spirit’s search for self-integration, belongingness, and love.
Adrienne (Lita Hawkins) Kennedy was born on September 13, 1931, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Cornell Wallace Hawkins, a social worker, and the former Etta Haugabook, a teacher. She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Ohio State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1953. A few years later, she moved to New York and enrolled in creative writing classes at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. In 1962, she joined Edward Albee’s Playwrights’ Workshop in New York City’s Circle in the Square. She wrote Funnyhouse of a Negro for Albee’s workshop. A decade later, she became a founder of the Women’s Theater Council. In 1953, the playwright married...
(The entire section is 176 words.)