The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Bill Duke

Share on Social Media

Information about Bill Duke

Profile image of Bill Duke

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
Occupation(s):
Actor
Film Director

Favorites

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
Occupation(s):
Actor
Film Director

Favorites

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 William Henry Hudson Duke, Jr. on February 26, 1943 in Poughkeepsie, New York to Ethel Louise and William Henry Hudson Duke, Sr. Duke earned his A.A. degree from Dutchess Community College before attending Boston University, where he originally enrolled as a pre-med student, but earned his B.A. degree in theatre. He received his M.A. degree in fine arts from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Duke later attended the American Film Institute.

Duke began his career as an actor in New York City with the Negro Ensemble Company, 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 was in 1976 when he portrayed a young Black Muslim revolutionary named Abdullah Mohammed Akbar in Car Wash. Duke then held the recurring role of Luther Freeman in the series Palmerstown, U.S.A. before his directorial debut in 1982, directing episodes of Knot's Landing, Falcon Crest, and Flamingo Road. Some of Duke's most prominent work was his direction of teleplays for the PBS series American Playhouse including “The Killing Floor,” which was chosen for Critic's Week at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985, “A Raisin in the Sun,” which received an Emmy nomination, and “The Meeting.” During the 1980s, Duke amassed more than 100 television directing credits, including more than seventy episodes of roughly twenty 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. He went on to direct many other films including Deep Cover, Sister Act 2, Hoodlum, Deacons for Defense, and Prince Among Slaves. Duke was also featured in numerous television series, including in Fastlane, Karen Sisco, and Black Lightning, as well as in films like Predator, Menace II Society, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and High Flying Bird. In 1993, he co-authored Black Light: The African American Hero with Paul Carter Harrison and Danny Glover; and, in 1996, he published The Journey: A Tale of Human Healing. Duke published his memoir in 2018.

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Duke to the California Film Commission. Duke also worked with non-profit and charity organizations such as Educating Young Minds, and has taught at several universities including Howard University and New York University School of Arts. In 2008, he founded the Duke Media Foundation, aimed at teaching new media skills to youth.

Duke is the recipient of numerous awards including the American Film Institute’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 also appointed Duke to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Duke was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 19, 2008 and November 20, 2019.

See how Bill Duke is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • 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