October 2, marked the passing at age 60 of the noted playwright, August Wilson, the recipient of the St. Louis Literary Award for 1991.
When he received the award, Wilson, the author of such critically and popularly acclaimed works as Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and The Piano Lesson, had already earned consideration as America’s foremost dramatist, and the ensuing years have only strengthened that claim. By the time he died, Wilson had fulfilled his ambitious plan of giving dramatic voice to the African American experience in modern America by setting each of his plays in a different decade of the twentieth century and by locating almost all of them in the Hill District of Pittsburgh where Wilson grew up. Nor was this particularity of focus a limitation on Wilson’s greatness. For like Shakespeare and other great playwrights, Wilson repeatedly produces the paradox of getting us to discover the universal in intense explorations of the particular: anatomizing the frustrations and hopes, the joys and sorrows of particular characters living in particular places at particular times immerses us as audience in what we share with those characters as humans.
The Saint Louis University Library Associates were honored to have recognized August Wilson's tremendous contributions, and we lament his loss.