The next PBS American Masters documentary chronicles the life and work of the award-winning African-American playwright August Wilson. The Ground on Which I Stand premieres on PBS tonight at 9 p.m.
Wilson was a prolific writer who brought the African-American experience to life on stage during his rise to fame on Broadway in the late 1970s and '80s. Each of his 10 plays were set in a different decade between 1900 and 1990.
He also casted many Black actors early in their careers, including actress Viola Davis and actor Laurence Fishburne. Phylicia Rashad starred in one of his final plays, Gem of the Ocean, in 2003.
Fences (1987), which centers on the life of a former Negro baseball player, won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and four Tony Awards. His other eight Broadway plays, including Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1984) and Two Trains Running (1990), also received Tony awards for performances in the play.
At an early age, Wilson showed a love for creative writing. But he faced discrimination in his native Pittsburgh for being the only Black student at an all-white school. He later dropped out of high school and self-educated himself at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Wilson was also drawn to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and began writing poetry in response to the events.
Wilson later met and found a mentor in Lloyd Richards, who was the artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre at the time.
“Having the opportunity to explore Wilson’s creative process and his tenacity in looking at the African-American experience in the 20th century was one of the most exciting endeavors I have ever had in my film career,” said filmmaker Sam Pollard, according to a release.
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(Photo: John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images)