Clio Logo
August Wilson and the Civil Rights Movement in Pittsburgh
Item 9 of 9
August Wilson was one of Americas most gifted and talented African American playwrights. He was born in this house in the Hills District, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 27, 1945. This area at the time was home to a working class neighborhood that was predominantly African American. Wilson would later use this apartment house as the setting for some of his most famous plays. The culture and environment surrounding this small apartment led to some of the most important moments in Wilson's career.

  • The Wilson house with Historical marker
  • The Wilson House
  • The WIlson House as is Today
  • August Wilson

 August Wilson was born Frederick August Kittle on April 27 of 1945 and was the fourth child of six born to Frederick Sr and Daisy Kittle. The family lived in this building in a small apartment. Wilson’s father left at a very young age, leaving his mother to raise all six children alone. The area that the family resided in was mostly a black neighborhood and the people and experiences of his life would go on to shape Wilson's writing, including his view on race relations which can be seen throughout many of his works.

 At the age of 15 Wilson dropped out of public school but continued to spend many hours dedicated to daily study. In between work and family obligation, and thanks to the integrated Pittsburgh libraries, he continued reading and writing while he worked different jobs to help his mother afford this apartment. The early years of the civil rights movement and observations about racial relations shaped Wilson's worldview. He was aware of the unfair treatment and wanted to be apart of the African American movement that was going on in this United States.

 In the 1960’s after a brief stent in the United States Army, he officially changed his name to “August Wilson” and started participating in the Black Arts movement. He started submitting poems to different forms of the black press, and performing his poetry in local bars. In 1968 he was the co-founder and director of The Black Horizons theater in Pittsburgh. This is when Wilson started working on his ten part cycle of plays that were mostly set in the Hills District of Pittsburgh. Several of these plays would go on to win Pulitzer Prizes. He is now remembered as one of the most renowned artist of his generation. 

After his death in 2005 steps have been made to preserve the African American history that came out of Pittsburgh in honor of him. He helped spread cultural awareness, not only through theater but many other forms of art as well. His plays often depicted life in this neighborhood and even included scenes inspired by this small apartment. The building is now being restored and being turned into a spot for local artist to share their art. 

Wilson, August, House. National Parks Services. . Accessed October 30, 2018.

Welsh, CJ. Childhood Home of Playwright August Wilson. Life of an Ordinary Person. . Accessed October 30, 2018.

August Wilson. Encyclopedia of Britannica. September 28, 2018. Accessed October 30, 2018.

Henry, Maya. August Wilson Home. Next Pittsburgh. May 06, 2016. Accessed October 31, 2018.

Johnson, Chandler. August Wilson House Clio: Your Guide to History. April 26, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2020