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Bill Duke

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Information about Bill Duke

Profile image of Bill Duke

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Actor
Film Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Ice Cream
Favorite Time of Year:
All Seasons
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Caribbean
Favorite Quote:
True Power Is An Individual's Ability To Move From Failure To Failure With No Loss Of Enthusiasm.

Birthplace

Born:
2/26/1943
Birth Location:
Poughkeepsie, New York

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Actor
Film Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Ice Cream
Favorite Time of Year:
All Seasons
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Caribbean
Favorite Quote:
True Power Is An Individual's Ability To Move From Failure To Failure With No Loss Of Enthusiasm.

Birthplace

Born:
2/26/1943
Birth Location:
Poughkeepsie
See how Bill Duke is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Film director and actor Bill Duke was born on February 26, 1943 in Poughkeepsie, New York and is the son of Ethel Douglas Duke and William Duke, Sr. After earning his A.A. degree from Dutchess Community College, Duke became interested in the performing arts while attending Boston University, although he initially enrolled as a pre-med student. He eventually majored in theater there and then went on to earn a M.A. degree in fine arts from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Duke later enrolled in the American Film Institute (AFI).

Duke began his career as an actor in New York City theaters like The Public Theater and New Federal Theater, performing in plays such as LeRoi Jones' Slave Ship and Melvin Van Peebles’ musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. Duke’s first movie role came in 1976 when he portrayed a fierce young Black Muslim revolutionary named “Abdullah Mohammed Akbar” in Car Wash. Duke’s television directorial debut came in 1982 when he directed episodes of Knot's Landing, Falcon Crest, and Flamingo Road for Lorimar Productions. Duke's most prominent and critically acclaimed television work, however, has been his direction of teleplays for the PBS series American Playhouse including “The Killing Floor,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” and “The Meeting,” a 90-minute drama that depicted an imaginary meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. During the 1980s, Duke amassed more than 100 television directing credits, including more than 70 episodes of roughly 20 television series such as Miami Vice, Dallas, Crime Story, Cagney and Lacey and Hill Street Blues. Duke directed his first feature film in 1990, a film adaptation of Chester Himes' novel A Rage in Harlem. Duke went on to direct many other films including Deep Cover, Sister Act 2, Hoodlum and Deacons for Defense.

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Duke to the California Film Commission, which works to enhance the economic climate of the state by keeping film industry jobs in California. Duke also works with non-profit and charity organizations such as Educating Young Minds, an organization that helps inner-city students excel at school and in life. Duke is the recipient of numerous awards including the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the NAACP’s Special Award for Outstanding Achievement, SCLC’s Drum Major for Justice Film Award and a Cable Ace Award. President Bill Clinton appointed Duke to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Duke was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 19, 2008.

See how Bill Duke is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bill Duke's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bill Duke lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bill Duke describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bill Duke recalls his maternal family's move to Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bill Duke describes his mother's upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bill Duke describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bill Duke describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bill Duke describes how he takes after his parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bill Duke describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bill Duke describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bill Duke talks about his family's self-sufficiency
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers his upbringing in Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bill Duke describes the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers Violet Avenue Elementary School in Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bill Duke remembers his early experiences with dyslexia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bill Duke describes his early interest in writing
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bill Duke remembers Dr. James Hall
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bill Duke recalls his introduction to theater at Boston University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bill Duke remembers Lloyd Richards
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bill Duke recalls developing his skills as a director
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers his favorite film and television programs
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bill Duke describes his early theater career in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers his introduction to Hollywood's entertainment industry
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his short film, 'The Hero'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bill Duke remembers co-starring with Richard Gere in 'American Gigolo'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his transition to directing
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bill Duke remembers directing 'The Killing Floor'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bill Duke recalls directing 'A Raisin in the Sun' for PBS
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers acting in 'Commando' and 'Predator'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bill Duke recalls his directorial credits in the 1990s, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers directing 'Deep Cover'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his directorial philosophy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bill Duke reflects upon his experiences as a director
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bill Duke talks about the art of acting
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Bill Duke talks about his favorite actors
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bill Duke recalls his directorial credits in the 1990s, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bill Duke talks about his book, 'Black Light'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bill Duke describes the film 'Deacons for Defense'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bill Duke talks about the California Film Commission
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bill Duke describes his civic involvement
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bill Duke reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his plans for the future
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bill Duke reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Bill Duke talks about his family
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Bill Duke describes how he would like to be remembered