Joseph A. Walker Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Joseph A. Walker was born in Washington, D.C., in 1935. Although his father, Joseph Walker, was a house painter and his mother, Florine Walker, a housewife, Walker had higher aspirations. He graduated from Howard University in 1956 with a B.A. in philosophy and a minor in drama, having acted in several student productions (he portrayed Luke in James Baldwin’s Amen Corner in May of 1955). Although he had realized that his real love was the theater, his fear of poverty drew him, after graduation, to the United States Air Force, where he enlisted as a second lieutenant and reached the rank of first lieutenant by the time of his discharge in 1960. His desire to become a high-ranking officer caused Walker to initially pursue navigators’ training, but he later quit when he found himself spending more time writing poetry than studying for his navigator’s exams. This dramatic shift of career was the source for a famous scene in The River Niger when navigator school student Jeff Williams is belittled by a white airman for his poetry writing in exactly the same way as Walker himself has described being insulted during his military career. Trying to establish a balance between his fear of financial dependence and his inner desire to compose poetry, Walker decided to devote his full attention to the study of drama and poetry rather than to achieving high rank in the military. Further education gave him time to clarify his goals. Walker received an M.F.A. from Catholic University in 1963 and began teaching in a Washington, D.C., high...

(The entire section is 634 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Joseph A. Walker was born to working-class parents, Joseph and Florine Walker. He earned a B.A. from Howard University in philosophy in 1956 and minored in drama. Walker spent much of his time in college working on productions with the university’s Howard Players. In 1955 he played the character Luke in James Baldwin’s premier production of The Amen Corner at Howard University. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Air Force, becoming a first lieutenant before his honorable discharge in 1960. He earned his M.F.A. in drama from Catholic University in 1963 and was later awarded the Ph.D. from New York University. He divorced Barbara Brown in 1965, and in 1970 he married Dorothy Dinroe.

Walker’s teaching career began in junior high and high schools in Washington, D.C., and he subsequently taught at the City College of New York and at Howard University. He later became a professor in the theater division of the Fine Arts Department at Rutgers University. In his early years, he performed with the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC), which produced several of his plays, and from 1970 to 1971 he was playwright in residence at Yale University. Walker performed in numerous stage productions during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, including The Believers. He also performed in films, such as April Fools (1969) and Bananas (1971).

In 1970 Walker and his wife, Dinroe-Walker, founded a musical-dance repertory...

(The entire section is 540 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Joseph A. Walker made a name for himself in the 1970s with his dramatic stage plays highlighting the struggles of African-American men in a...

(The entire section is 385 words.)