Charles Fuller Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Charles Henry Fuller, Jr., was born in Philadelphia on March 5, 1939, the son of Charles Henry and Lillian (Anderson) Fuller. The son of a printer, Fuller was educated in Philadelphia, attended Villanova University, then served in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1962. In 1962, he married Miriam A. Nesbitt, and they had two children, Charles III and David. He resumed his studies at LaSalle in Philadelphia from 1965 to 1967 and went on to become the cofounder and codirector of the Afro-American Arts Theatre in Philadelphia from 1967 to 1971. In 1982, LaSalle awarded him an honorary degree after the stage success of A Soldier’s Play (1981). Honorary degrees than followed in 1983 from Villanova University and in 1965 from Chestnut Hill College as Fuller became one of Philadelphia’s most famous writers. He was appointed professor of African-American studies at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Fuller’s plays began to appear during the late 1960’s. In 1968, his two-act play The Village: A Party was produced in Princeton, New Jersey, in October; in March of 1969 it was produced in New York City as The Perfect Party. In 1972, a collection of six of Fuller’s one-act plays was produced in New York City under the title In My Many Names and Days. Other plays that followed in 1974 included the one-act First Love, the two-act In the Deepest Part of Sleep, and the three-act The Candidate. In 1976, his...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Fuller’s probing examinations of the corrosive effects of racism have earned him the admiration of critics and the attention of a wide audience. The popular success of his best-known work, A Soldier’s Play, in both its stage and film versions demonstrates that serious—even disquieting—literature need not be the exclusive province of academics and the avant-garde. Fuller has transcended the limitations implied in such labels as “black playwright” to earn recognition simply as one of America’s most accomplished dramatists.


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Charles Fuller wrote and produced his first play, The Village: A Party, in 1968. His place as a significant and talented playwright in contemporary African American theater is marked by an impressive number of dramas, among them Zooman and the Sign, for which he received two Obie Awards for best play and best playwright in 1980, and A Soldier’s Play, which received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best American play, the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and a film contract in 1984.

Fuller was reared in comfortable circumstances in an extended family of many foster children in North Philadelphia. He attended a Roman Catholic high school with his lifelong friend, Larry Neal, and attended Villanova University from 1956 to 1958. After a four-year hiatus in the U.S. Army in Japan and Korea, he returned to complete his undergraduate studies at LaSalle College from 1965 to 1968. Fuller began writing short stories, poetry, and essays in the 1960’s in Philadelphia mostly at night after working various daytime jobs. His interest in literature, largely a result of assuming the responsibility of proofreading his father’s print jobs, began early and served as the fertile source for a formal writing career, which developed from his short stories long after he began writing.

In addition to his Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier’s Play, a number of his best-known plays have been produced by the Negro Ensemble Company, notably The Brownsville Raid, Zooman and the Sign, and the We plays.

As a social reformer, Fuller is concerned with brushing away deeply rooted stereotypes and uprooting preconceptions in order to explore the complexities of human relationships—particularly black-white relationships in America—and rectify the portrayals that distort African Americans, especially the black male. Critical of black hatred for and treatment of other blacks, Fuller is just as critical of the negative portrayal of the black male by the white media. Convinced that the stage is a powerful medium that can effectively rectify the stereotyped image of blacks shaped by white media, Fuller combined the mystery genre with his knowledge of the military structure of the U.S. Army to expose some of the real conflicts of white and black, and of black and black in America.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Charles Henry Fuller, Jr., was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 5, 1939. In the course of time, his parents housed twenty foster children, eventually adopting two of them. The family lived in a Philadelphia housing project until Fuller’s father, a printer, went into business for himself and became one of the first African Americans admitted to the local printer’s union. Soon, the family moved to a racially mixed neighborhood in North Philadelphia, where the Fullers, devout Roman Catholics, sent their children to integrated parochial schools.

As a young boy, Fuller became interested in books through helping his father correct galley proofs; when he was thirteen and had gone to the theater for the first time in his life to see Molly Picon performing in Yiddish (a language he did not even understand), he was so exhilarated that he was convinced he wanted to do nothing but write plays. In high school, he formed a lifelong friendship with Larry Neal, to whom he later dedicated A Soldier’s Play and after whom he modeled its leading character, Captain Richard Davenport. Because Neal also was devoted to literature, eventually becoming a published poet and critic, the two young men buoyed up each other’s ambitions. After graduation from high school in 1956, Fuller, an English major, attended Villanova University, where he was discouraged from writing because of his race. He left in 1959 to enlist in the army in Japan and South Korea,...

(The entire section is 406 words.)