Biography and Social Relations: What the August Wilson Archives reveal about the playwright and/or the Hill District
An event hosted by August Wilson House, a part of the University Library System's From the Hill to the Stage: Celebrating the Opening of the August Wilson Archive.
Saturday, February 25, 2023
1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
August Wilson House
Registration is required (free).
In this discussion, we use the August Wilson Archive to peer into Wilson’s world. From birth to 13, how did his family and neighborhood shape who he became and what he created? What clues to his future as a poet and a playwright are scattered among his archives? By exploring his papers, what do we learn about his mother, his father, himself, and his identity with “Blackness”?
Wilson grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District community, a multi-ethnic tapestry of Italians, Jews, Syrians, Germans, and African Americans, populated with teachers, small business entrepreneurs, preachers, laborers, garbage collectors, and a range of other working-class and professional people. What does the Archive reveal about the complications of race and class and the social relations between groups of people on the Hill?
A recording of the event will be available to view after the event at pi.tt/AWCelebration.
Dr. Laurence A. Glasco is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh. He has long studied Black Pittsburgh and African American history, producing several works that highlight the life of August Wilson: August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays (2011, 2015); “August Wilson and Romare Bearden: A Playwright’s Debt to an Artist,” Western Pennsylvania History (Winter 2020-21); and more. Forthcoming articles include: “August Wilson and the Automobile,” Frick Museum catalog (2023); “August Wilson as Historian,” in Khalid Long and Isaiah Wooden, ed., August Wilson in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2023). Currently, Dr. Glasco is finishing a biography of August Wilson and writing a biography of K. Leroy Irvis, African American Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
His other work includes biography, essays, documentary contributions, and explorations of Black entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh at the turn of the century, African American landmarks in Allegheny County, and more. He has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and a member of Young Preservationists Association.
Dr. Joe William Trotter, Jr. is the Giant Eagle University Professor of History and Social Justice and past History Department Chair at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Director and Founder of CMU’s Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy, and President of the Urban History Association. His latest publications are: Pittsburgh and the Urban League Movement: A Century of Social Service and Activism (University of Kentucky Press, 2020); and African American Workers and the Appalachian Coal Industry (University of West Virginia Press, 2022). He is currently working on a study of African American urban life since the Atlantic slave trade.
Dr. Trotter teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in African American and U.S. urban, labor, and working-class history.
Pittsburgh native Carl Redwood has long been recognized for his community advocacy and activism. He is chair of the Hill District Consensus Group's board of directors, and project director with the Pittsburgh Black Worker Center. A lifelong community activist who fights for economic and social justice, he advocates for affordable housing in Pittsburgh and works to prevent the forces that are pushing some residents of color to less accessible outskirts of the city. He has been honored as the Thomas Merton Center's New Person of the Year, an award recognizing local social justice advocates who dedicate their lives to peace and justice in Pittsburgh. He is an adjunct faculty member with the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh.
John Henry Merritt is an English Ph.D. student at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying African American literature. His research interests include Black American literature; spatiality, focusing on geography, architecture, and environment; and digital humanities. His publications include, “Sewers and Mines in Richard Wright’s The Man Who Lived Underground.” The Paper Shell Review, Spring 2022; “Transportation, Technoscience, and Progressive Historiography in Two Colson Whitehead Novels,” Mellon Mays Undergraduate Journal, Spring 2021, and more. He has presented on poet Phillis Wheatley and theatre director Lloyd Richards. A former intern with the August Wilson Society, Merritt now serves on its board.
Dr. Ervin Dyer is a writer, editor, and sociologist whose work focuses on telling stories related to the African diaspora and African American life and culture. He is the senior editor at Pitt Magazine at the University of Pittsburgh and a former reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In 2020, he received a Pulitzer Center grant to report from Haiti and his award-winning journalism has also carried him to Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Japan, China, and Cuba.
Dr. Dyer has served as editor and/or co-author on the following book projects: Say It Loud: The Black Action Society, the Computer Center Takeover, and Transformation at the University of Pittsburgh; On My Way Home: A Memoir of Kinship, Grace and Hope; Race, Identity, and Privilege from the U.S. to the Congo. He is currently at work on a bio-memoir of his mother, Jean Dyer, recounting her survival in 1940s rural Virginia and beyond. An adjunct professor with Pitt’s Africana Studies Department and with the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, he is also a board member of August Wilson House.
August Wilson House is located at 1727 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. Metered on-street parking is available on Crawford Street, three blocks (.2 miles) from the House.
Please email email@example.com with any questions or accessibility accommodation requests.
For other August Wilson Archive-related events, visit, pi.tt/AWCelebration.