The University of Pittsburgh has announced that they will be the new home for the personal archives of Tony- and Pulitzer-winning playwright August Wilson, the writer behind such seminal works as Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and Jitney.
Included in the 450-box archive are much of Wilson's papers, including letters, early drafts of his work, notebooks, and even a draft of his unfinished and unproduced play about Malcolm X.
The move will be a homecoming of sorts for the archive; Wilson was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and went on to make it the setting of nine of 10 plays in his Pittsburgh Cycle (often also referred to as the Century Cycle), a collection of plays exploring the Black experience in each decade of the 20th century. Works from this cycle—comprising Jitney, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, King Hedley II, Gem of the Ocean, and Radio Golf—are among the playwright's most celebrated and produced works.
Wilson is probably best known for his two Pulitzer-winning plays, Fences and The Piano Lesson. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom brought the playwright to Broadway for the first time in 1984, but all entries in the Pittsburgh Cycle have subsequently been produced on the main stem. A 2010 revival of Fences starring Denzel Washington and directed by Kenny Leon inspired a 2016 feature film adaptation with Washington both directing and re-creating his stage performance along with co-star Viola Davis.
Washington has since expressed interest in getting all of Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle plays made into films, and is a producer on Netflix's upcoming adaptation of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom starring Davis.
Wilson passed away in 2005 at the age of 60 from liver cancer, and 14 days later, Broadway's Virginia Theatre was re-named the August Wilson Theatre in his honor. His childhood home in Pittsburgh was designated a landmark by the state of Pennsylvania in 2007. The August Wilson African American Cultural Center, opened in 2009, celebrates the artistic work of Black artists around the world.