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Douglas Turner Ward

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Information about Douglas Turner Ward

Profile image of Douglas Turner Ward

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
Stage Actor
Stage Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Beans (Red), Rice, Gumbo
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
New Orleans, Louisiana, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
5/5/1930
Birth Location:
Burnside, Louisiana

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
Stage Actor
Stage Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Beans (Red), Rice, Gumbo
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
New Orleans, Louisiana, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
5/5/1930
Birth Location:
Burnside
See how Douglas Turner Ward is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Negro Ensemble Company co-founder, actor, director, and playwright Douglas Turner Ward was born Roosevelt Ward, Jr. on May 5, 1930, in Burnside, Louisiana. Ward was a descendant of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan; his great, great, great-grandmother, Elnora, owned as a slave by Forrest, bore a child with him. Ward’s parents, Roosevelt Ward and Dorothy Short Ward were field hands, but they owned their own tailoring business. Raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and attending Xavier Prep High School, Ward graduated in 1946 at the age of sixteen. Ward entered Wilberforce University in 1946, where he performed in two plays, Thunder Rock and A Shot In The Dark, and discovered his ambition to be a sportswriter. When Wilberforce began to lose its accreditation in 1948, Ward transferred to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he played football in his freshman year; he would later quit the football team. In 1949, Ward decided that he wanted to leave college altogether; at the age of nineteen, he went to New York City.

In New York Ward became politically involved and worked as a journalist. Ward eventually decided to become a playwright and studied at the Paul Mann Workshop in New York City. In 1956, Ward began his off-Broadway career as an actor in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh; he went on to perform and understudy for a part in A Raisin In The Sun. In 1965, Ward, Robert Hooks, and Gerald Krone formed the Negro Ensemble Company; he made his playwriting debut that same year with the oft produced Happy Ending/Day of Absence. In 1967, the Negro Ensemble Company was officially opened with Ward serving as artistic director; some of the its notable productions include A Soldier’s Playand The River Niger, which became the company’s first play to go to Broadway. The River Niger eventually won a Tony Award for Best Play. Ward went on to write other plays, including The Reckoning and Brotherhood.

As a result of Ward and his colleagues’ hard work, the Negro Ensemble Company went on to produce more than two hundred plays, and to become a place for Black actors to gain experience and prominence in the theatre. Some notable actors who have worked with the Negro Ensemble Company include Louis Gossett, Jr., Phylicia Rashad, and Sherman Hemsley.

Douglas Turner Ward was interviewed by the HistoryMakers on April 28, 2010.

See how Douglas Turner Ward is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his mother's family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his maternal great-grandfather, Isaac Short
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his search for his family's history, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his search for his family's history, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers asking about his family history
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the lack of educational opportunities in Burnside, Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's grandparents
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Louisiana history
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his reaction Mardi Gras traditions, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his reaction Mardi Gras traditions, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's parents
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his paternal grandmother
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's bootlegging
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his parents' meeting
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his extended family
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his family's ghost stories
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his childhood personality
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls his interest in reading while growing up
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the impact of Richard Wright's 'Black Boy' and James T. Farrell's 'Studs Lonigan'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward contrasts his experience with Richard Wright's in 'Black Boy'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his mother's religious influence
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his questioning of the church
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his elementary schools in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes how he advanced through schools in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his maternal great-grandfather's influence
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers men he admired, including boxer Joe Louis
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his interest in African American athletes and sports
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his developing agnosticism
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes extracurricular activities at Xavier University Preparatory School in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward explains his decision to attend Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his surprise at the segregation in Ohio
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls watching movies as a child
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his time at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers enjoying Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the schism at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers acting with the Wilberforce Players
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes transferring to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers becoming radicalized at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about moving to New York City
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview, session 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes developing an interest in politics at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers deciding to leave the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about reading Karl Marx
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his influences at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his decision to move to New York City
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes registering for the draft in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls arriving in New York City
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers working for Henry A. Wallace's 1948 presidential campaign
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes President Harry S. Truman's civil rights position
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the fall-out from the 1948 presidential election
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his experience as a Marxist youth leader in the 1950s
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Harlem nightlife in the 1940s and 1950s
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the acceptance of radicalism in Harlem, New York City
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his arrest in 1951
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his arrest and conviction
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his exoneration
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers returning to New York City after his exoneration
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his path to becoming a playwright
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his early writing
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his decision to pursue playwriting
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes developing as a writer
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the conflict in the Communist Party after Joseph Stalin's death
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his changing political views in the 1950s
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in 'The Iceman Cometh'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his early stage roles
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers Lorraine Hansberry's invitation to audition for 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his role in 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes audience perceptions of 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview, session 3
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the original cast of 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the acting methods of the cast of 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the rehearsal process for 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers seeing his first plays in New York City
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers touring with 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers giving Lorraine Hansberry advice, pt. 1
  • Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers giving Lorraine Hansberry advice, pt. 2
  • Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Douglas Turner Ward reflects upon the presence of African American actors in the 1940s and 1950s
  • Tape: 11 Story: 10 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers forming the Manhattan Arts Theater
  • Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in the postwar period
  • Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes expectations for 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the Manhattan Arts Club disbanding
  • Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the positive reviews of 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the Broadway run of 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes not getting the role of Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes HistoryMaker Ossie Davis and Elwood Smith playing Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands rejoining 'A Raisin in the Sun' on the road
  • Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers a lecture from HistoryMaker Lloyd Richards
  • Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes working with Elwood Smith in 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his performance as Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in 'The Blacks' in New York City
  • Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his acting roles after 'The Blacks'
  • Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his first staged play, 'Happy Ending'
  • Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the early performances of 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'
  • Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls the reception of 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'
  • Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his writing process for 'Day of Absence'
  • Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the inspiration for 'Happy Ending,' pt. 1
  • Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the inspiration for 'Happy Ending,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 1
  • Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 2
  • Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the process of writing 'Day of Absence'
  • Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of 'Happy Ending'
  • Tape: 15 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about audience responses to 'Happy Ending'
  • Tape: 15 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the opening of 'Day of Absence' and 'Happy Ending'
  • Tape: 15 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the legacy of 'Day of Absence' and 'Happy Ending'
  • Tape: 15 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes setting aside time for his family and writing
  • Tape: 15 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his Haitian trilogy
  • Tape: 16 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes selecting plays for the Negro Ensemble Company
  • Tape: 16 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers receiving scripts for the Negro Ensemble Company
  • Tape: 16 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes different playwrights' styles
  • Tape: 16 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about writing for African American audiences
  • Tape: 16 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the style of theater he cultivated
  • Tape: 16 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about HistoryMaker Paul Carter Harrison
  • Tape: 16 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward Douglas Turner Ward describes the Negro Ensemble Company's early plays
  • Tape: 17 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers deciding not to take 'Ceremonies in Dark Old Men' to Broadway
  • Tape: 17 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the vision of the Negro Ensemble Company
  • Tape: 17 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the lack of a national arts policy
  • Tape: 17 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers taking 'The River Niger' to Broadway
  • Tape: 17 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the financial goals of the Negro Ensemble Company
  • Tape: 17 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the success of 'Fences'
  • Tape: 17 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the role of AUDELCO in creating audiences for African American productions
  • Tape: 18 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the purpose of the Negro Ensemble Company
  • Tape: 18 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the financial difficulties of the Negro Ensemble Company
  • Tape: 18 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the final years of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 1
  • Tape: 18 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the final years of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 2
  • Tape: 18 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his Haitian trilogy
  • Tape: 18 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about Jean-Jacques Dessalines
  • Tape: 19 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the Haitian Revolution
  • Tape: 19 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the lost potential of Haiti
  • Tape: 19 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1
  • Tape: 19 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2
  • Tape: 19 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward reflects upon his life and legacy
  • Tape: 19 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his family
  • Tape: 19 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes how he would like to be remembered