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Paul Carter Harrison

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Information about Paul Carter Harrison

Profile image of Paul Carter Harrison

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
Theater Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Oxford Blue
Favorite Food:
Fish
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Ibiza, Spain
Favorite Quote:
Like That!

Birthplace

Born:
3/1/1936
Birth Location:
New York, New York

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
Theater Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Oxford Blue
Favorite Food:
Fish
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Ibiza, Spain
Favorite Quote:
Like That!

Birthplace

Born:
3/1/1936
Birth Location:
New York
See how Paul Carter Harrison is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Playwright, professor and African American theatre expert, Paul Carter Harrison was born March 1, 1936 in New York City, New York. His parents, Thelma Inez Harrison and Paul Randolph Harrison were from North and South Carolina, respectively, with backgrounds rooted in the Garvey Movement, the A.M.E. Church and Gullah culture. Harrison’s brother, Kenneth, was the first black basketball player at Villanova University. Harrison attended P.S. 113 and graduated from Commerce High School in 1952. At New York University in Greenwich Village, sixteen-year-old Harrison met cutting edge artists, writers and musicians including Billy Dee Williams, Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Ted Joans and Thelonius Monk. He transferred to Indiana University in 1953, where he met “Sweet” Charlie Brown, Freddie Hubbard, and David Baker. He was awarded a B.A. in psychology in 1957. Returning to New York, Harrison earned an M.A. in psychology and phenomenology from the New School for Social Research in 1962.

Shelving his plans for a Ph.D. in 1962, Harrison spent seven years in Spain and the Netherlands, honing his writing and experimenting in theatre. In Amsterdam he met students from Surinam with whom he dialogued about the drama of African ritual. Harrison wrote a film script, Stranger On The Square, and two plays: The Experimental Leader and Dialogue from the Opposition.
From 1968 to 1970, Harrison taught theater at Howard University, where his students included: Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Linda Goss, Petronia Bailey, Clinton T. Davis and Pearl Cleage. At the State University of California at Sacramento, 1970-72, he wrote and directed Tabernacle and directed Melvin Van Peebles’ Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death. In 1973, his play, The Great McDaddy, produced by the Negro Ensemble Company, won an Obie Award. From 1972 to 1976, he taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he is now professor emeritus and wrote movie scripts for Lord Shango (1975) and Youngblood (1978). In 1976, Harrison was hired as professor and writer in residence at the Theatre Center of Chicago’s Columbia College and served until his retirement in 2002. While in Chicago, Harrison directed ETA’s acclaimed production of Marsha Leslie’s The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman (1996) and Columbia’s Doxology (2002).

Harrison’s books include: The Drama of Nommo and Totem Voices: Plays From the Black World Repertory (1972), Kuntu Drama: Plays From the African Continuum (1974), In The Shadow of the Great White Way (intro 1989), Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company (1995), and Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora (2003). Harrison lives in New York City and looks forward to annual vacations in Spain with his daughter.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Paul Carter Harrison's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls his grandfather's burial ceremony in the African Methodist Episcopal church
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls his paternal grandmother's apartment rental business in Harlem, New York, New York
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his mother's personality and her career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his mother's second marriage at the age of seventy-seven
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his childhood memories of his father
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls traveling to the South to visit his mother's family in Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his and his brother's early experiences with discrimination as teenagers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls encountering prejudice at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his early educational experiences and cultural influences in New York, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls the artists that he befriended at New York University in New York, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison shares a story about a youthful romance derailed by his lack of career plans
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about an influential music teacher at Public School 113 in New York, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison reflects on the importance of embedding teachers within a larger community
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in New York, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about playing the trumpet in a drum and bugle corps during his childhood in New York, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls playing basketball on the playgrounds as a teenager in Harlem, New York, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his brother's experiences on the basketball team at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about the decorum for entering new territory that he learned in New York, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the musical prodigies he encountered while living in Bloomington, Indiana
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls a racist incident in his physiology class at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls confronting a physiology professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana for her racist language
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about experiencing racial discrimination while living in Indiana
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his reason for attending Commerce High School in New York, New York
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his social life and influences at Commerce High School in New York, New York
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison explains how his interest in theater began in New York, New York during the 1950s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about what he learned studying psychology at the New School for Social Research in New York, New York
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about how living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for a year changed his philosophy and writing style
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison explains why he chose to return to the United States to teach at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about the inspiration for his documentary film 'Stranger on the Square'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about being exposed to new ideas as a professor of theatre at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about how African roots influence the black community in America
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison offers his perspective on the history of the Afro-Surinamese people
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about how African rhythms and traditions are manifested in African American culture
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison gives his perspective on what makes ritual powerful in the African tradition
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about what he means by the term Nommo
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls learning about the culture of the South while teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the plays he wrote while working at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison explains his decision to leave Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his directing work while teaching at Sacramento State College in Sacramento, California
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls the creation and production of his play 'The Great MacDaddy'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his tenure as chairman of the theatre department at Columbia College Chicago in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his current theatrical and literary projects
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison offers his perspective on what defines black theatre
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the Yoruban influences in August Wilson's play 'King Hedley II,' pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the Yoruban influences in August Wilson's play 'King Hedley II,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison names important African American theatre figures
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison offers examples of plays that define black theatre, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison offers examples of plays that define black theatre, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about the lack of support for the African American theater community today
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about addressing the concerns of African American youth
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison explains how the theater has the potential to create positive social change in the African American community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls collaborating on the premiere production of 'The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison elaborates on his preference for spare, open designs in theatrical productions
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his daughter, wife, and brother-in-law
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison describes how he wants to be remembered
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison narrates his photographs