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Kevin Willmott

Filmmaker and screenwriter Kevin Willmott was born on August 31, 1958 in Junction City, Kansas. After he attended Junction City High School and St. Xavier Catholic High School, Willmott received his B.A. degree in drama from Marymount College in Salina, Kansas in 1981. He went on to receive his M.F.A. in dramatic writing from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts in 1988.

Willmott worked as a peace and civil rights activist in Junction City, Kansas in between college and graduate school. After receiving his M.F.A. degree, he returned to Kansas to begin working on his first film, Ninth Street, which he directed, wrote, produced, and acted in. Ninth Street, which starred Martin Sheen and Isaac Hayes, premiered in 1999; and, in 2000, Willmott joined the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of Kansas, teaching screenwriting, the history of African American images and film, anti-war and Blaxploitation films. The same year, he served as a writer for the NBC miniseries, The 70s. Willmott went on to direct and write the mockumentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, which was released in 2004, and direct, write, and produce the film Bunker Hill, which was released in 2008. His film The Only Good Indian, which he directed and produced, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009. In 2013, Willmott’s films Destination: Planet Negro! and Jayhawkers were both released. He also served as a writer on Spike Lee’s film Chi-Raq and as a screenwriter on Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman, which premiered in 2015 and 2018, respectively. In 2019, Willmott began working on the film Da 5 Bloods with Spike Lee, the film The 24th, and the documentary I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled.

In 2009, Willmott was named Best Director at the American Indian Film Festival for his work on The Only Good Indian. In 2019, he received an Oscar and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman.

Willmott and his wife, Becky Willmott, reside in Lawrence, Kansas.

Kevin Willmott was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 8, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.125

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/8/2019

Last Name

Willmott

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Junction City Junior/Senior High School

St. Xavier Catholic High School

Marymount College

New York University Tisch School of the Arts

First Name

Kevin

Birth City, State, Country

Junction City

HM ID

WIL95

Favorite Season

Summer and Fall

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Spain

Favorite Quote

You Know

Birth Date

8/31/1958

Birth Place Term
Favorite Food

Hamburgers

Short Description

Filmmaker and screenwriter Kevin Willmott (1958- ) began filmmaking in 1991. He co-wrote the 2015 film Chi-Raq with Spike Lee and received an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work as a screenwriter on Lee’s 2018 film BlacKkKlansman.

Employment

Ninth Street

University of Kansas

The 70s

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

Chi-Raq

High Tech Lincoln

Bunker Hill

The Only Good Indian

Destination: Planet Negro!

Jayhawkers

BlacKkKlansman

Favorite Color

Khaki

Richard Wesley

Playwright and screenwriter Richard Wesley was born on July 11, 1945 in Newark, New Jersey to George Wesley and Gertrude Wesley. He graduated from East Side High School in 1963 and went on to attend Howard University. He earned his B.F.A. degree in playwriting, dramatic literature, and theatre arts in 1967.

After graduation, Wesley moved to New York City. His connection to actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, whom he had met at Howard University, led him to the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem. In 1971, Wesley’s first play, The Black Terror, was presented at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theatre. The Mighty Gents, another play by Wesley, premiered on Broadway in 1978. In the mid-1970s, began writing screenplays. Many of Wesley’s screenplays enjoyed success at the box office. Wesley produced screenplays for Uptown Saturday Night in 1974, Let’s Do It Again in 1975, Fast Forward, and Native Son in 1986. He also wrote a screenplay for a children’s film that premiered on PBS, called The House of Dies Drear. Wesley also wrote teleplays, which include Murder Without Motive in 1991, Mandela and De Klerk in 1997, and Bojangles in 2000. Wesley was involved with the musical The Dream Team at the Goodspeed Opera House, and The Talented Tenth at the Manhattan Theatre Club. In 2013, Wesley was chosen by the Trilogy Opera Company to write the libretto for the opera, Papa Doc. Two years later, Autumn, which was written by Wesley, premiered at the Crossroads Theater Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 2016, the Trilogy Opera Company’s Five, which contained a libretto written by Wesley and was composed about the Central Park Five controversy, opened at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Wesley has served in teaching roles at multiple academic institutions. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Manhattanville College, Wesleyan University, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and Rutgers University. Wesley has also been an associate professor in playwriting and screenwriting, as well as the chair of the Rita and Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing, at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

In addition to commercial success, Wesley’s works have received awards. The Black Terror, Wesley’s first play, won a Drama Desk Award. The Mighty Gents, which premiered in 1978, received an AUDELCO Award.

Welsey and his wife, Valerie Wilson Wesley, have two daughters, Nandi and Thembi.

Richard Wesley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 30, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.080

Sex

Male

Interview Date

03/30/2017 |and| 05/05/2017

Last Name

Wesley

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Richard

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

WES12

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Feet to the fire.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

7/11/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Newark

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Playwright and screenwriter Richard Wesley (1945 - ) was an award-winning writer for stage and screen and served as an associate professor and department chair at New York University.

Favorite Color

Navy Blue

Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Actor and writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson was born on November 24, 1956 in Lackawanna, New York to Alean Hudson and Ruben Santiago. He graduated from Lackawanna High School; and earned his B.A. degree in theatre from Binghamton University in 1978, and his M.F.A. degree from Wayne State University in 1982.

Santiago-Hudson first appeared in the 1988 film, Coming to America. He then played Captain Billy Cooper on the daytime drama Another World from 1990 to 1993. Santiago-Hudson made his Broadway debut as Buddy Bolden in Jelly’s Last Jam in 1992, and starred in August Wilson's Seven Guitars in 1995. He wrote the autobiographical play Lackawanna Blues in 2001, and adapted it into the award-winning 2005 HBO film of the same name. He co-starred opposite Phylicia Rashad in Gem of the Ocean on Broadway in 2004; and, in 2007, he starred in a PBS Nova documentary about the life of Percy Lavon Julian. From 2009 to 2011, he played Captain Roy Montgomery in ABC's Castle. Santiago-Hudson returned to Broadway to star in Stick Fly in 2011, and directed August Wilson’s JITNEY! on Broadway in 2017.

Santiago-Hudson’s other film credits include Bleeding Hearts, Blown Away, Domestic Disturbance, Which Way Home, The Devil’s Advocate, American Gangster, Mr. Brooks, Shaft, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Showtime’s Solomon and Sheba. He also made appearance on the television shows The Cosby Mysteries, New York Undercover, NYPD Blue, Touched by an Angel, The West Wing, Third Watch, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Showtime’s Billions, the TNT series Public Morals, and five episodes of Law & Order.

Santiago-Hudson received the 1996 Tony Award for Best Featured Performer in Seven Guitars, and was awarded the 2006 Humanitas Prize in writing for the HBO film adaptation of his play Lackawanna Blues, and the 2009 NAACP Lifetime Achievement Theatre Award. In 2013, Santiago-Hudson won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Director, an Obie Award for Direction, and was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play for the Off-Broadway production of The Piano Lesson. In 2016, he won an Obie Award for Special Citations: Collaboration of the play Skeleton Crew. He also received an honorary doctorate of letters from Buffalo State College in 2006, and Wayne State University in 2015. In 2014, The Ruben Santiago-Hudson Fine Arts Learning Center was named in his honor in his hometown of Lackawanna, New York.

Santiago-Hudson and his wife, Jeannie Brittan, have two children: Trey and Lily, in addition to his two older sons: Broderick and Ruben III.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 8, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.005

Sex

Male

Interview Date

08/08/2016

Last Name

Santiago-Hudson

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Lackawanna High School

State University of New York at Binghamton

Wayne State University

First Name

Ruben

Birth City, State, Country

Lackawanna

HM ID

SAN06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Puerto Rico

Favorite Quote

Love Is Love.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/24/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans and Rice

Short Description

Actor and writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson (1956- ) appeared in dozens of feature films, television dramas and Broadway plays. He wrote 2001’s Lackawanna Blues, an autobiographical play that he adapted to film in 2005, premiering on HBO.

Favorite Color

None

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ruben Santiago-Hudson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about his mother's drug addiction

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers his time with his mother and siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers his surrogate mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ruben Sanitago-Hudson describes his father's migration to the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his father's career on the railroad

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes the demographics of Lackawanna, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls growing up in a rooming house

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls a visit from social services

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes Lackawanna, New York and Buffalo, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls the influence of his surrogate parents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers the tenants of his surrogate mother's rooming house

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his surrogate mother's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers his godmother

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers the integration of Lackawanna High School in Lackawanna, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers the mentorship of Robert Ambrogi

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about the impact of integration on the black community in Lackawanna, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his godfather's political career

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers the race riots at Lackawanna High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his struggles at the majority-white Lackawanna High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about interracial dating at Lackawanna High School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his two eldest sons

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers the State University of New York at Binghamton

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his college mentors

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls his suspension from the State University of New York at Binghamton

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls his return to the State University of New York at Binghamton

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his early acting experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls his acting experiences in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls performing in 'Native Son'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ruben Santiago recalls his academic experiences at Wayne State University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls receiving his master's degree

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls moving to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers his early acting career in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls auditioning for the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls his roles with the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers providing for his children

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his experiences as a soap opera actor

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers auditioning for August Wilson

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls marrying his wife

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson explains the origin of his twins' names

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his wife's career

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about the black theater community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls his role in 'Jelly's Last Jam'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers lessons from Gregory Hines

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson explains his choice of roles

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his approach to film roles

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls acting in August Wilson's 'Seven Guitars'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls starring on the television show 'Castle'

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers his early directorial career

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about his film roles

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls creating the stage play 'Lackawanna Blues'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers the first production of 'Lackawanna Blues'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls performing 'Lackawanna Blues' in Hollywood

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about the film adaptation of 'Lackawanna Blues'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls the national response to 'Lackawanna Blues'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ruben Hudson-Santiago remembers a lesson from August Wilson

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes the legacy of his surrogate mother

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about the influence of everyday life on his writing

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers directing 'Gem of the Ocean'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers directing August Wilson's plays, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls the obstacles to his production of 'Jitney'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about the preservation of August Wilson's plays

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about the interpretations of August Wilson's plays

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes the cost of a Broadway production

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson remembers directing August Wilson's plays, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his directorial style

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls a lesson from his surrogate mother

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about his commitment to acting

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls directing 'The Piano Lesson,' pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls directing 'The Piano Lesson,' pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his play, 'Your Blues Ain't Sweet Like Mine'

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his creative inspiration

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his TED talk

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson shares his advice to young actors

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about the importance of black theater

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about modern racism, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about modern racism, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his advice to a group of black construction workers

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about standing up for yourself, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about standing up for yourself, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson shares his advice to African American actors

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson talks about the current black television networks

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his family

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$6

DAStory

10$1

DATitle
Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes his father's career on the railroad
Ruben Santiago-Hudson recalls creating the stage play 'Lackawanna Blues'
Transcript
So, he went to Florida, Chicago [Illinois], then Buffalo [New York] with Pedro [ph.], got that job. He had like three jobs he said before the week was over and he had to choose, so he chose the railroad. He liked the sound of the train, you know, and he--and that's where he spent his--he--and they never promoted him. He kept the same job. They gave him a raise, a little raise, but he said every year, they would bring a new young white guy in to be his boss and he would have to teach the guy how to be his boss. The guy would ask him to do something with a certain tool and he'd say, you know, "No, no, no--you don't--you don't--you don't do this like that. You, you take the--you hit with this? No, you don't move it. You, you don't (unclear), but if I move this, you--show you how to do it." And he--my father [Ruben Santiago] would show him and the guy would say, "Oh, okay, now I know," every other year. And I think what broke his heart more than anything 'cause he gave his life to the railroad and, you know, he wasn't one of them sit in the house kind of guys on the railroad, he was a track man. That means, anything going wrong with the track, you take care of it. So, in Buffalo in the winter when the track is supposed to switch so the train can go to the destination, when it get icy, it won't switch, so he had to make it switch. He had to go on there and thaw it, beat the track over, get it lined up, lock it in, and watch the train make that move, and then he can go back to--so, and that's what he did his whole, whole career. And he said the thing, the biggest thing that hurt him there, 'cause in the summer they would hire--if your kid was a college kid, the railroad would give you a job for the summer. You could work with your father, make five dollars, four dollars an hour, which was a lot of money in 1974, and they wouldn't--they never hired me. And he took me to his boss, to the big Penn Station--Penn, Penn Central--New York Central Railroad offices in Buffalo. It's, it's now abandoned, gorgeous building, took me up to the biggest boss up in an elevator and--, "This my son, you know, he, he go to college, he, he going to--he very smart, you know. He can working, too." They never hired me. He did it twice and they didn't hire me and that hurt him. And he never said anything until he was almost gone, you know, when he was like in his sixties, he admitted it to me. He said it hurt that they didn't hire me and they hired everybody else's son. Every white guy that brought his son got hired, but not me. And even--he even had me come to his job and meet him while he was working on the tracks, "Meet me at so and so," and I would meet him and took him--meet his foreman and say, "Put a word in for my son. He's good. He's in college." Never hired me, and that hurt him, you know.$I wanna talk about 'Lackawanna Blues' [Ruben Santiago-Hudson]. When did you start writing it?$$I started writing it--I tried--I tried to start writing it in, in college, but I wasn't sincere. I was afraid to expose a lot, so I, I put it away pretty fast. One of the teachers said I was the worst writer he had ever seen and I should forget about that, you know. It's like I should forget about Shakespeare [William Shakespeare]. I mean, the whole way is forget about it, forget about it, forget about it. You know, you never tell a kid that. So, I didn't write again, but I kept telling Nanny's [Rachel Crosby] stories, anybody that would listen, subway down the street. I just--even today, you know, I still tell Nanny's stories as you can tell in this interview. And I was telling it to Rosemarie Tichler and John Dias at The Public Theater [New York, New York] and George [HistoryMaker George C. Wolfe] was in charge of The Public, "You gotta go tell George." I said, "George has heard these stories." "You gotta go tell--just tell him the one you just told me." So, we go into George's office and I tell the story, George says, "Yeah." He says, you know, I'm tir- he said, "I'm tired of hearing these stories, you know. You need to go write them down." I said--you know, "They, they would probably be a great story and everybody need to hear and quit telling me and quit telling him." And I said, "Yeah, somebody gotta write it." He said, "Yeah, you," and walked out of the room. "I gotta go to this other meeting." And I'm like, we gotta get somebody to write this story. So, I think a week later, I got a commission from The Public Theater, a couple thousand dollars or something to write this play. So, I said, wow, I got accountability and responsibility, I gotta--I gotta do this thing. I just gotta find a writer. I'm not a writer. So, we hired a grad student from Columbia University [New York, New York] to transcribe what I was putting on the tape. They said, "What do you need?" I said, "A tape recorder, my harmonica, and a light in the room," and I just start telling stories into the mic- microphone and she typed them out and typed them out all wrong. If I say something, she would correct it. Like if I say something like I heard somebody say at the rooming house like heard them fool got drunk, cut each other throat. She would write I heard those fools had gotten drunk last night and cut each other's throats. No, heard them fool got drunk, cut each other throat last night. So, I had to start writing it to correct her, and that's how I started writing it.$$And this was about what time?$$This was--this was '90-something, '98 [1998], '90-something. And then my boy, Bill Sims, Jr., who did all the music, I called Bill Sims, I said, "Man, bring your guitar in here, man. I want you to play woodshed a little bit while I--while I do this monologue. I want you to hear this monologue." And Bill would come sit in that corner with his guitar and start playing. "Do that again, do that again, do that again." I would do it again and he would do a different thing to it. Or he would be playing and I say--and then I would pick up my harmonica and start playing, and we just start gluing it together, gluing it together. And I had a director who I brought in from Binghamton [State University of New York at Binghamton, Binghamton, New York], and George came to hear our first--my first pass at it, some of my stories with this director and he was a musical theater guy and he needed a break. He wanted a break. He had just moved to New York [New York] and he was a guy that I really liked at school, but we had fallen out and come back together. He was a director and they brought in from U--UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California], and he was teaching at Wagner College [Staten Island, New York]. Anyway, I brought him. He said, "Please, man, I want to get to The Public Theater. Please, I'll do anything. I'll direct the workshop, I'll do," George watched my first presentation. He said, "I need to see you in my office." I went to his office, he said, "What is that? This is not a musical comedy. This is the story of your life. What, what are you doing?" And I was like, "What do you mean?" He said, "Who, who is the director?" I said, "He's a guy I know." Well, he said, "Get him out of here. Get him out of here. Do your story. Quit playing at it. If you're gonna do your story, do your story." And I said, "All right," you know. So, he made me get real serious about it. So, I quit making everything comedy and let you laugh at the realities. If you laugh, you laughed at my characterizations or something, somebody might say--like, Ol' Po' Carl might say, "Your mama was a fine woman. Her lips was--she had the big pooty lips, look--lips was kind of like blue like she had been drinking black berry brandy," and you will laugh. Or Old Paul or, or, or, or Ol' Po' Carl would say, "Yeah, I went to New York, went up to the entire state building." You know, he was a (unclear) guy, so that would make you laugh instead of me joking everything. Just tell a story, the way it is. So, George kind of turned that around in me and Bill just got tighter and tighter. And then we brought in--George gave us a wonderful director, Loretta Greco to guide it. This is my story, but she--I needed a guiding eye, and she was a good guide for it.

Antwone Fisher

Screenwriter and author Antwone Quenton Fisher was born on August 3, 1959 in a women’s prison outside of Cleveland, Ohio to seventeen-year-old Eva Mae Fisher and twenty-three-year-old Edward Elkins. His mother named him for pianist Antoine “Fats” Domino, and his father was killed before he was born. As a result, Fisher grew up in several foster homes, without having known his parents. Twelve years of his childhood were spent with a foster family named the Picketts, a middle-aged couple whose children were already grown. During his time with the Picketts, Fisher was beaten physically, sexually abused by a neighbor and family friend, and emotionally neglected. For many years, his foster father did not even acknowledge whether he knew Fisher's name. After one fight with Mrs. Pickett, Fisher was kicked out of the home and forced to return to social services.

For high school, Fisher attended George Junior Republic School, a specialized school for young men from disadvantaged circumstances located in western Pennsylvania. While attending school, he met social worker Bill Ward, who was a significant and positive influence in Fisher’s life. When Fisher graduated, he moved into a Cleveland YMCA. Seeking protection for the numerous predators in the neighborhood, Fisher entered into the criminal world of Cleveland by collecting money from prostitutes for a local pimp named Butch. For the latter half of 1977, Fisher was homeless and slept wherever he could find some shelter, usually on the campus of Cleveland State University.

Fisher joined the United States Navy in 1978, where he spent eleven years in the service. He began to receive counseling from a Naval psychiatrist, Lieutenant Commander Williams. Williams helped motivate Fisher to discover his own origins. After his discharge from the Navy, Fisher became a federal corrections officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for three years. He then began working as a security guard for Sony Pictures, and resolved to discover the whereabouts of his biological family. After some research, Fisher contacted his aunt, Annette Elkins and was able to meet his biological family, including his mother, Eva Mae. In 1996, Fisher married his wife, LaNette Fisher, with whom he has two children.

In 2001, Fisher published his autobiography, Finding Fish. After this, Fisher fielded several competing offers for the film rights. After declining several offers, he ultimately sold the rights to his story to 20th Century Fox. Shortly thereafter, the film Antwone Fisher was released with actor Derek Luke portraying the title character. The film was directed by Denzel Washington, who portrayed Commander Williams. Fisher’s other writing credits include work on the films Money Talks, Rush Hour and ATL. In 2005, Fisher released a book of his own poetry entitled Who Will Cry for the Little Boy?

Antwone Fisher was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 19, 2007 and September 19, 2008.

Accession Number

A2007.150

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/19/2007 |and| 9/19/2008

Last Name

Fisher

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

George Junior Republic

John Hay Campus High School

First Name

Antwone

Birth City, State, Country

Delaware

HM ID

FIS03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bermuda

Favorite Quote

To Thine Own Self Be True.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

8/3/1959

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lima Beans

Short Description

Screenwriter Antwone Fisher (1959 - ) wrote the screenplay for "Antwone Fisher", a film adaptation of his autobiography, "Finding Fish". His other screenwriting credits include "ATL", "Rush Hour", and "Money Talks".

Employment

United States Navy

United States Bureau of Prisons

Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.

University of California, Los Angeles. University Extension

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1920,35:2480,43:3360,52:6960,100:9040,115:54416,585:56154,610:57339,623:58919,646:60499,667:65002,787:65476,794:74245,922:86770,1039:94323,1153:95402,1167:111048,1282:111344,1287:111862,1295:117560,1407:117930,1413:118374,1420:118670,1425:119188,1434:140369,1715:146579,1849:147062,1857:147614,1870:148097,1878:158638,1991:166390,2115:167454,2127:180526,2308:191992,2492:192538,2500:202990,2652:204004,2663:204316,2670:213790,2731:214573,2742:219097,2802:243420,3096$0,0:4650,105:11625,242:11925,247:12450,256:21950,339:24491,381:25338,395:27186,435:31190,536:34347,605:35656,629:37119,644:37504,650:37889,656:38505,666:53222,878:60768,1028:66400,1066:68445,1107:70145,1123:70485,1128:76766,1188:77504,1198:78078,1207:82100,1247:88766,1354:89459,1378:92770,1434:93309,1442:95388,1497:111025,1700:113745,1733:114765,1779:115360,1787:115785,1796:128014,2007:131326,2116:132262,2135:133630,2168:133918,2175:134638,2187:135070,2195:141425,2275:141863,2323:144929,2361:146097,2376:146681,2391:147849,2412:156852,2508:157776,2529:158568,2543:158898,2549:159162,2554:165210,2630
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Antwone Fisher's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher describes his biological parents' family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher describes his paternal grandfather and great-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher lists his biological father's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher remembers his first foster mother, Nellie Strange

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher recalls being removed from his first foster mother's home

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Antwone Fisher describes his foster family, the Packs

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Antwone Fsiher describes his foster parents' background

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher describes his earliest memories of living with the Packs

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher describes his upbringing with the Pack family

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher remembers his foster father's church

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher recalls being abused by his foster mother

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher describes his foster care caseworkers

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Antwone Fisher describes his elementary school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Antwone Fisher describes his neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher remembers Christmas celebrations with his foster family

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher describes his foster father

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher remembers the death of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher describes his foster brother

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher recalls the death of his foster sister, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher describes his relationship with his foster siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Antwone Fisher recalls the death of his foster sister, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Antwone Fisher recalls his foster brother's release from prison

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher talks about coping with abuse

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher recalls how his foster sister was treated by their foster parents

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher describes the local preacher who lived in his foster home

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher describes the community in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher describes the impact of his foster sister's trauma

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher talks about his academic experiences

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Antwone Fisher describes his temporary foster brother, Kevin

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Antwone Fisher recalls caring for Vietnam War veterans at his foster home

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher recalls being kicked out of his foster home, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher recalls being kicked out of his foster home, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher describes his first experience of racial discrimination

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher recalls being sent to the George Junior Republic reform school in Grove City, Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher describes the George Junior Republic reform school

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher remembers his counselor at George Junior Republic

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Antwone Fisher describes his experiences at George Junior Republic

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Antwone Fisher's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher describes his mindset while at George Junior Republic

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher remembers graduating from George Junior Republic

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher recalls his first job search

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher talks about his experiences while living at a YMCA

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher recalls leaving the YMCA

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher remembers working on the street in Cleveland, Ohio, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Antwone Fisher remembers working on the street in Cleveland, Ohio, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Antwone Fisher recalls returning to his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher remembers the murder of his childhood friend

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher describes his experiences of being homeless

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher recalls becoming reacquainted with his foster sister

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher recalls joining the U.S. Navy

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher recalls completing basic training for the U.S. Navy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher recalls adapting to life in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Antwone Fisher recalls getting into fights in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Antwone Fisher describes his U.S. Navy psychiatrist

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Antwone Fisher recalls maturing during his U.S. Navy service

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher remembers the influential people in his life

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher describes his work responsibilities in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher describes his jobs after leaving the U.S. Navy

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher recalls meeting his birth father's family

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher recalls meeting his birth mother

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher talks about his relationship with his birth mother

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Antwone Fisher recalls writing the screenplay for 'Antwone Fisher'

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Antwone Fisher recalls working at Sony Pictures Entertainment

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher recalls becoming a screenwriter

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher recalls meeting his wife, LaNette Canister Fisher

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher talks about his autobiography, 'Finding Fish'

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Antwone Fisher talks about the production of 'Antwone Fisher'

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Antwone Fisher describes the opening scene of 'Antwone Fisher,' pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Antwone Fisher describes the opening scene of 'Antwone Fisher,' pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Antwone Fisher reflects upon his success

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Antwone Fisher describes his maternal uncle, Jess Fisher

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Antwone Fisher talks about his current projects

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Antwone Fisher describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Antwone Fisher reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Antwone Fisher talks about being a vegetarian

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Antwone Fisher describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

2$2

DATape

7$9

DAStory

3$7

DATitle
Antwone Fisher describes his experiences of being homeless
Antwone Fisher describes the opening scene of 'Antwone Fisher,' pt. 2
Transcript
And you know I was thinking that I started noticing that I was smelling because I hadn't had a bath like in days. Those days would turn into like months of me not having a chance or no place to wash up and I, I don't even remember when that stopped bothering me and something else started bothering me like not having anything to eat and whether it was acceptable for me, Antwone [HistoryMaker Antwone Fisher] to get food from the trash, or to beg or shoplift for a bag of potato chips or beg for money. I don't know, I passed all these thresholds without realizing that, that I had just done that and I saw myself in my mind as the kid that I always was. The kid that other people liked in the neighborhood [Glenville, Cleveland, Ohio], my childhood friends to one day seeing myself almost like in a movie when you walk by a store window and you see yourself and you can't believe that, that's you. So it was the rot that was happening, I felt I had finally reached to the outside of me you know, and so that was like you know in the fall you know, summer had turned to fall by then. It was cold and I didn't have a coat, and I stole one and I, I just remember being so happy to have that coat. It was like you know I never like even, now felt like you know taking something from someone else or something that belonged to me you know you never, you know when I had done it in my life growing up, it never really felt like the things, like is if I had earned it, so but that coat I felt like I had earned it, I felt like it was mine you know and I felt like I deserved it, and I felt like whatever I had endured, whoever--I stole it like from Cleveland State University [Cleveland, Ohio]. I started hanging around over there because there were young people there and I, of course I had learned to be afraid of older people, and it looked so hopeful young people walking around all going to college you know, and there was this big vent that blew warm air you know. I had discovered that I could use the restroom there to wash a little because they had a sink, you know it was a--for the students and later years would really like amazing that it was Cleveland State University that gave me an honorary doctorate degree, and I was walking through the same pathway I took as a homeless kid walking by this big vent that still was blowing that same hot air, but my family was with me, my two little girls [Azure Fisher and Indigo Fisher] and my wife [LaNette Canister Fisher] and I was walking behind them, the dean and the chancellor, you know the president of the school with the doctor's robe on and everything you know to get my degree and I thought my what a difference you know a few decades makes you know. This same person was walking this way feeling awkward and that someone was gonna notice that I was gonna go and try to steal a cookie or something and to now getting a doctorate degree. So, I would hang around there and some student was slipping, and I took their coat off the back of their chair you know and it was warm and I felt like it was mine and so it was mine then.$If you ever interview Denzel [Denzel Washington] you ask him about that day, it was so beautiful and the people who, who owned the, the barn, Nelson Coates was the set designer [for 'Antwone Fisher'] and he designed the set you know, the--he felt like you know the fruit and all the food on the table, another thing that filmmakers bring, should be oversized like dream are. They should not be like regular size. So when you see the pancakes they're huge, when you see the apples they're big, huge apples, you know plums, glitter and just so huge because of the dream, and he said, "This is how a dream should be," and he made this table and hired these people to make these pancakes. They made all these pancakes that kept falling apart because it was too big and the batter was too soft, and so they finally had like four or five plates of pancakes and they kept having to switch 'em because they kept falling apart, and the people who owned the barn they didn't let them come into the barn until everybody was set and the people stood in the doorway and cried because it was so beautiful and that was that scene. It only lasts I think about a minute in the opening, but it took us seventeen hours to make it, a whole day you know.$$Yeah it really makes a statement.$$Beautiful scene you know and it was a meaningful scene you know to me you know, just to see you know my friends, and everybody--you know it was funny. We were feeding people you know 'cause we were making the movie in the neighborhood you know we had this tent and anybody from the neighborhood could come and get steaks and so, and so everybody was there and they were all eating and somebody was telling me that one of the neighbor people were, was like a crack [crack cocaine] addict right and he was walking down the street with my book ['Finding Fish,' Antwone Quenton Fisher] and he said, "Well what are you doing with book," and he told him, he said, "I'm gonna read it," everybody in Cleveland [Ohio] man they would've read that book, crack heads, everybody (laughter) and it, in the neighborhood [Glenville, Cleveland, Ohio] it was referred to as the book (laugher), "Did you get the book," because the book is about them too, a lot of them are in the book. The neighborhood and the times, things that happened in the neighborhood during that time is in the book too, so they remember those times and they remember some of the people I describe. So, so the book has a personal meaning to them even if they didn't know me, because it was about Cleveland and about this community inside of Cleveland of course that was attached to the whole city.

Alice Randall

Fiction writer, lyricist, and screenwriter Alice Randall was born to Mari-Alice and George Randall on May 4, 1959 in Detroit, Michigan. She spent her early years in Detroit where she attended St. Phillips Lutheran School and Greenfield Peace Lutheran School. Moving with her mother to Washington, D.C., she was enrolled at Amidon Elementary School and graduated from Georgetown Day School. Briefly traveling to Great Britain to enroll in the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London, she returned to enter Harvard University in the fall of 1977.

At Harvard, she was influenced by Hubert Matos, Harry Levin and Nathan Irving Huggins and was a member of the International Relations Council. Randall earned honors and her B.A. degree in English and American literature in 1981. In the early 1980s, Randall worked as a journalist and as a writer for Wolftrap Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C. Cultivating a taste for country music in 1981, Randall decided to move to Nashville in 1983 to become a country music song-writer. Having her first country hits in 1983 and 1984, Randall wrote "Girls Ride Horses Too" in 1987 and garnered a number one hit with "XXX's and OOO's: An American Girl" recorded by Trisha Yearwood in 1993. Writing over 200 country songs with thirty recorded, Randall is the first African American woman to have a number one country hit.

Randall's first novel, “The Wind Done Gone” is a reinterpretation and parody of “Gone with the Wind.” The title critiques “Gone with the Wind” from the viewpoint of Scarlett O'Hara's half-sister Cynara, a mulatto slave on Scarlett's plantation. The estate of Margaret Mitchell sued Randall and her publishing company, Houghton Mifflin, on the grounds that “The Wind Done Gone” was too similar to “Gone with the Wind,” thus infringing its copyright. The lawsuit was eventually settled, allowing “The Wind Done Gone” to be published. The novel became a New York Times bestseller. Randall's second novel, “Pushkin and the Queen of Spades,” was named as one of the Washington Post's "Best Fiction of 2004."

As a screenwriter, Randall wrote a television movie for CBS based on her song XXX's and OOO's: An American Girl in 1994, and contributed to screenplay adaptations of “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” “Brer Rabbit” and “Parting the Waters.” In the 1990s, she and fellow songwriter, J. C. Crowley, created a film and television development company called Black and White Pictures. Randall and friend, Mimi Oka, now operate a film and television development company in Nashville called “She Writes Movies, Inc.” She is also a member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Middle Tennessee. Randall has recently published the book “Rebel Yell” in September, 2009. Randall is married to attorney, David Steele Ewing and has a daughter, Caroline Randall Williams.

Alice Randall was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 17, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.094

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/17/2007

Last Name

Randall

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

St. Philips Lutheran School

Greenfield Peace Lutheran School

Amidon Elementary School

Georgetown Day School

Harvard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Alice

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

RAN06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Do The Hard Right Thing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

5/4/1959

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Cornbread Madeleines

Short Description

Fiction writer, screenwriter, and lyricist Alice Randall (1959 - ) authored the New York Times bestseller The Wind Done Gone, and was the first African American woman to write a number one hit country song, "XXX's and OOO's: An American Girl."

Employment

Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Favorite Color

Black, White

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Alice Randall's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Alice Randall lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alice Randall describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alice Randall talks about her mother's foster family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alice Randall describes her mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alice Randall describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alice Randall talks about her father's descent from Confederate General Edmund Pettus

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alice Randall describes her father's relationship with his white relatives

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Alice Randall remembers her paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Alice Randall describes her father's young adulthood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Alice Randall talks about her relationship with her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alice Randall describes how her parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alice Randall talks about her relationship with her father

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alice Randall describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alice Randall remembers the African American community in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alice Randall recalls her father's childhood friend

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alice Randall recalls lessons from her father, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Alice Randall recalls lessons from her father, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Alice Randall describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Alice Randall describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Alice Randall recalls integrating The Roeper School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Alice Randall remembers her parents' divorce

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alice Randall talks about moving with her mother to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alice Randall remembers the riots of 1967 in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alice Randall recalls her mother's work with the Surveys and Research Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alice Randall describes the riots of 1968 in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alice Randall remembers the Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alice Randall remembers her interest in the Jewish faith

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Alice Randall recalls her teachers at the Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Alice Randall talks about her mother's emphasis on education

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Alice Randall remembers learning to read

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Alice Randall talks about her early interest in film

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Alice Randall describes her favorite museums in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Alice Randall talks about her favorite television programs

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alice Randall talks about her first impressions of 'Gone with the Wind'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alice Randall describes her early understanding of racism

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alice Randall recalls her experiences of discrimination in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Alice Randall describes her experiences of financial discrimination

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Alice Randall talks about the development of her racial identity

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Alice Randall recalls studying abroad at the University of London's Institute of Archaeology

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Alice Randall describes her experiences in London, England

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Alice Randall recalls applying to Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Alice Randall describes the topic of her college application essay

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Alice Randall recalls her first impressions of Harvard University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Alice Randall remembers historian Nathan Huggins

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Alice Randall talk about her favorite authors

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Alice Randall reflects upon her experiences at Harvard University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Alice Randall describes her early career as a writer

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Alice Randall talks about the origins of country music

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Alice Randall describes her role as a professor

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Alice Randall talks about the complexities of country and R and B music

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Alice Randall shares her analysis of Chuck Berry's song, 'Memphis'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Alice Randall talks about the cultural context of country music

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Alice Randall recalls her start as a country songwriter

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Alice Randall describes the inspiration behind her songwriting

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Alice Randall talks about the subjects of her country song lyrics

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Alice Randall talks about her career as a screenwriter

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Alice Randall describes African American cowboy Britt Johnson

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Alice Randall talks about her screenwriting projects

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Alice Randall recalls her challenges as a screenwriter

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Alice Randall describes her experiences working on the film 'Boomerang'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Alice Randall remembers selling the rights to her first film script

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Alice Randall describes the development of her novel, 'The Wind Done Gone'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Alice Randall talks about the education gap in the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Alice Randall talks about the education gap in the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Alice Randall talks about her interpretation of 'Gone with the Wind'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Alice Randall recalls the lawsuit against her novel, 'The Wind Done Gone'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Alice Randall talks about the criticism of 'The Wind Done Gone'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Alice Randall describes the settlement of the lawsuit against 'The Wind Done Gone'

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Alice Randall recalls speaking at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Alice Randall talks about the positive responses to 'The Wind Done Gone,' pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Alice Randall talks about the positive responses to 'The Wind Done Gone,' pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Alice Randall describes the critical acclaim for 'The Wind Done Gone'

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Alice Randall describes her current projects

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Alice Randall describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Alice Randall talks about her concerns for African American children

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Alice Randall describes her lessons to her daughter

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Alice Randall talks about her daughter's obstacles in school

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Alice Randall reflects upon her career

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Alice Randall reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Alice Randall describes her family

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Alice Randall describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Alice Randall narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$7

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Alice Randall describes her parents' personalities
Alice Randall recalls speaking at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Georgia
Transcript
But my father [George Randall] always would take me to the dry cleaners and as a little baby he'd take me with him and he'd throw me in a big canvas, I don't even know what they're called, canvas bin with the clean clothes. That was my crib (laughter) 'cause he would, you know, he'd--a baby to him was a portable love thing. He wanted to be with me. And as I got older, you know, I started off in private school [St. Philip's Day School, Detroit, Michigan], he would always make me spend at least two weeks with him in the summer. And I got a little bit older at one point, and I didn't want to do it. And this may have been, say fourth grade. He said, "I'm gonna put a cot back there between where all the clothes are filed," as they called it, "and a television. If you wanna sit there, back in there and eat, somewhere and read books and not come out that's fine," of course I got bored. "But you're gonna see where the money comes from. You're gonna see what my life. You're gonna see what the real people are high and low, what people come in here. So you can tell everything about people by all these dirty clothes they send in here." And I love that part of him. You know, he always totally grasped hands with both sides of life with me. And--and I think I've been that way with my own daughter [Caroline Randall Williams], being very honest, open, realistic, wanting her to know people high and low. You know, my father was in Germany during the [U.S.] Army. He ended up being able, you know, had a facility for languages, speaking German. He loved Shakespeare [William Shakespeare]. He actually fell in love with Shakespeare in that Miller High School [Sidney D. Miller High School, Detroit, Michigan], his senior year. And my daughter is an amazing Shakespeare scholar now. But he imbued me with this love of language, love of learning, and so I think I'm very much like him. I'm not glamorous. Both of my parents were very glamorous people, superficially. They were--aside from being both extremely bright, the difference I see between the two of them, my father was bright and an absolutely loving family man, and extremely mature, able to put other people ahead of himself. My mother [Bettie Randall Reilly] was a bright person who was not remotely emotional, extremely objective. I always thought of her as a Evita Peron [Eva Peron] person, she married up each time. And there's no poetry in her soul. I don't recall my mother in my entire life, I never saw her reading a novel. I do notice that she owned maybe two, but literally in my entire life, I never saw my mother reading a novel. I never saw my father reading a novel either which is interesting.$$But he told good stories?$$He told great stories. And of course we were in Detroit [Michigan] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Did your mother tell stories at all?$$No, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. She didn't tell stories. She barely cooked except for (laughter)--.$And I cannot say 'cause I don't wanna blame anyone, but somebody on one of these sides probably thought it would be a good idea to go speak at the Margaret Mitchell House [Atlanta, Georgia] and this is like asking--this is why I've learned to ask questions about where I'm being seated, how the picture is being taken. 'Cause I thought this was like they're holding out an olive branch. They told us that just no one had--they never let people speak inside, which is not true. It's documented that there have been readings before ins- inside. They made me give my speech outside on the porch. And if you know, old black, weird, southern segregation, black people stand outside, don't get--. They actually had me speaking outside on the porch with chairs in the lawn.$$Now this, what does this house look like, is it--I'm imagining a plantation or a big (unclear) house (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) No, 'cause she actually wasn't that rich. It was semi-fancy. It's not some kind of very fancy. It's a southern house in downtown Atlanta [Georgia] surrounded by the city. Everything around it has pretty much been torn down and they kept this and this lawn. And there's a--like a wrought iron fence around it. And there was, literally, a man in a Confederate uniform with some kind of sidearm marching in front the whole time that I am--. In fact, he tried to put something in--well I don't know that--I won't say that. There was a man in a Confederate uniform with a sidearm and he actually--glaring and being aggressive. And someone later, when I was signing, I had either a cup of coffee or a drink, meaning a drink like a cup of coffee or a Coca-Cola. One of the guards had to go take my drink, 'cause they thought someone had attempted to do something with my drink. I mean this is how careful we were having to be there. I mean, I don't know--we didn't pre- do a thorough investigation, but something. We had to be, even be careful in that kind of way. So, but I really did think, and it really was, there was a various aggressive, belligerent people outside of the gate of it. And they created in the--in the--in the environment 'cause I'm speaking on the porch where we gonna be subject to these people and anything could happen because they're just on the other side of the fence and they didn't. But they took me on a tour beforehand and some of this was recorded by Entertainment Weekly. And the head of that house, I wish I could recall her name, my husband [HistoryMaker David Ewing] will hopefully tell you what her name is, it's a three part name. And she got me alone. She showed me a picture of Malcolm X--excuse me--Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] dressed up like a little pickaninny at the opening of the movie of 'Gone with the Wind.' And she did not say these exact words, but this is a very clote- close paraphrase, essentially, "If Martin Luther King, Jr. can just go along to get along with us and do this and support this, why can't you." And I said, "It's good thing that I read my history and I know the rest of the pic- the story and I've seen this picture before." That Martin Luther King, Jr.'s father [Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr.], to get certain concessions from the white establishment in Atlanta at the time of the opening of the movie, made the women and children of his church available for a party to sing. He was rebuked at his national meeting of his church later that year. It's something that is understood that his son held against him for--it was something between them, they had a very good relationship, but it was something between them that he did not like. But can you imagine showing me this picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a little boy dressed up like a pickaninny singing. All these women and their hair is tied up in slave rags and tried--and. So, I, I actually exhibit one of my most triumphant southern moments of the day after going on this horrible tour. But, it was all I could do to not just cry at the meanness of it. And of course, she wanted to do this sort of secretly. I think I did speak of it in my talk, but and luckily there are a couple witnesses to it. But it happened. That's the kind of--and I said to her at the end, you know, there's really two differences between Margaret Mitchell and me (laughter), and one of them, these are not things I really truly think, but I did say this, I'd like to have this documented. I said, "The big difference between Margaret Mitchell and me is--." She said, "What is that?" I said, "Is that I got into the National Ju- Nashville Junior League [Junior League of Nashville, Nashville, Tennessee] and Margaret Mitchell wasn't asked to join the Atlanta Junior League [Junior League of Atlanta, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia] when she wanted to get in," (laughter). And this poor woman was devastated by this. "And the other one is I am noticing I see that you are--your renovations have been funded by Mercedes [Daimler Benz AG]." You can see that she thought that I was gonna be some sort of materialistic black person taken in by Mercedes. And she said, "Yes." And I said, "That seems so appropriate and wonder- and just interesting, not wonderful--appropriate." And she said, "Yes it is," and goes on and on, and just so appropriate. And she finally said, "Well why do you think it's so appropriate--." I mean, she's trying to figure--I said, "Because I just keep on thinking of how the early incarnation of that company funded Nazi Germany. And that these--the tanks that were plowing over our democracy and hopes for Western Europe, supporting the Nazi cause, all have these same Mercedes emblems on the front of it. It seems so appropriate as you plow over black American freedoms by holding up this icon that is so damaging, that you would be supported in that by this company," (laughter). That was about the last thing that woman said to me. But, then I went on and gave my little talk and had the Confederate reenactors.

Ossie Davis

Writer, director, actor, and producer Ossie Davis has established a phenomenal career, remaining throughout, a strong voice for artists' rights, human dignity, and social justice.

Ossie Davis was born on December 18, 1917, in Cogdell, Georgia, to loving parents and a supportive extended family. Graduating in the top five percent of his class with an already burgeoning interest in theater, Davis had to earn enough money before venturing on to college. A year after graduation, with his savings in tow, Davis hitchhiked from Georgia to Washington, D.C., to live with his aunts. There, he received the National Youth Administration scholarship and enrolled at Howard University in the fall of 1935.

At Howard University, Davis would find a nurturing environment to cultivate both his ideas and his talents. Impatient to try his luck on the actual stage, Davis left Howard University for New York City. It was in Harlem in 1939 that he became involved with the Rose McClendon Players.

Davis made his Broadway debut in 1946 in Jeb, where he met his wife and fellow actress, Ruby Dee. Davis went on to perform in many Broadway productions, including Anna Lucasta, The Wisteria Trees, Green Pastures, Jamaica, Ballad for Bimshire, A Raisin in the Sun, The Zulu and the Zayda, and the stage version of I'm Not Rappaport. In 1961, he wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed Purlie Victorious. Davis was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994.

Davis has written and directed numerous films, including Cotton Comes to Harlem and Countdown at Kusini (co-produced with his wife), the first American feature film shot entirely in Africa by Black professionals. He most recently appeared in the films Dr. Dolittle, Get on the Bus, and I'm Not Rappaport.

Davis was a leading activist in the civil rights era of the 1960s. He joined Martin Luther King, Jr., in the crusade for jobs and freedom and to help raise money for the Freedom Riders. He eulogized both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X at their funerals. He remains an activist today.

Davis has received innumerable honors and citations, including the Hall of Fame Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement in 1989; the U.S. National Medal for the Arts in 1995; the New York Urban League Frederick Douglas Award; NAACP Image Award; and the Screen Actor's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. He has enjoyed a long and luminous career in entertainment along with his wife and fellow performer, stage and screen collaborator, and political activist, Ruby Dee. They have recently published a joint autobiography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together.

Accession Number

A2001.026

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/9/2001

Last Name

Davis

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ossie

Birth City, State, Country

Cogdell

HM ID

DAV01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Barbados

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/18/1917

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

2/4/2005

Short Description

Film director, screenwriter, stage actor, and film actor Ossie Davis (1917 - 2005 ) established a phenomenal career, remaining throughout, a strong voice for artists' rights, human dignity, and social justice. Davis appeared in countless theatrical performances and feature length films and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994. Davis has written and directed numerous films, including 'Cotton Comes to Harlem' and 'Countdown at Kusini.' Davis was a passionate activist throughout his life, and had the honor to eulogized both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X at their funerals.

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ossie Davis interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ossie Davis's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ossie Davis describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ossie Davis gives recollections about his father's personality and his mother's sewing skills

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ossie Davis describes the neighborhood of his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ossie Davis talks about his religious and formal educations

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ossie Davis recalls a racist incident from his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ossie Davis recalls his high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ossie Davis details his father's career aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ossie Davis talks about his decision ot attend Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ossie Davis discusses his mentor Alain LeRoy Locke and his decision to become an actor

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ossie Davis recalls his first forays into political activism

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ossie Davis talks about his depression and the events following World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ossie Davis talks about his courtship and marriage of Ruby Dee

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ossie Davis talks about the early years of his marriage and surviving McCarthyism

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ossie Davis discusses his developing worldview in relation to his writing

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ossie Davis gives his views on youth, creativity and his future

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ossie Davis is uncomfortable with the idea of 'legacy' and urges people to focus on the future

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ossie Davis ponders his hopes for the black community

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

7$4

DATitle
Ossie Davis recalls a racist incident from his childhood
Ossie Davis discusses his mentor Alain LeRoy Locke and his decision to become an actor
Transcript
Now, Waycross [Georgia] had the advantage of this black enclave--segregated, but black--and we saw ourselves in positions of authority--black preachers, black teachers, black people in the barbershop, black doctor, black dentist--but we were surrounded by a hostile world, part of which was the Ku Klux Klan, and there was always the threat that something dire might happen or something--some animosity might break loose and endanger us in the community. And a large part of my own culture--and this I wasn't aware of at the time--a large part of my own culture was not tainted but sort of geared to protect me from the areas where I might inadvertently do something or say something that could get me hurt--how to behave in the presence of white people, and for the black boys particularly, how to relate to the white female--and we were sort of taught this and it was sort of a part of who we were and what we had to absorb. I remember when I was about five or six, coming home from school. I had maybe a couple of books with me. We didn't have book bags in those days, and two policemen in a car drove up, stopped. "Come here, boy." I turned and went to them. "Get in." I got in the car and they drove me down to the police station, and I got out of the car and went in with them. They were not threatening, and I wasn't frightened by them, and when we got inside, you know, they were about their business, and there were others, and they acted as if I was just a kid hanging around, and finally they told jokes and I laughed at them, and then one of them took syrup and poured it on my head, and another gave me some peanut brittle and put me on the streets and told me, "Go home now. Don't get into any devilment," and I did. And although I was five or six, I didn't tell my mama [Laura Cooper Davis] or my daddy [Kince Charles Davis]. I knew that something had been done to me that defined me in a way, but I knew not to tell them because if Daddy were angered or if Mama were threatened, what would I do? So I swallowed that, but I always knew that that really was meant to tell me that I was a nigger and that I had a place and that I should keep in that place. As I think back on it, I think it was designed specifically to get my consent to the system of segregation. In other words, they had to ascertain whether I was going to be a good boy or a bad nigger then, and they ascertained it by my response and me being sensitive and likable and happy. I'm sure I laughed when they laughed, and I didn't feel threatened by the whole thing at all, but they had somehow 'niggerized' me, and it lasted for many a year, and I suppose some of the effects of that were still beyond me.$I studied, as I said before, with Dr. Alain LeRoy Locke who was head of the Department of Philosophy [at Howard University, Washington, D.C.]. Locke was the first black Rhodes Scholar ever (with emphasis), and he had discovered some people like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and whatnot, and was interested in the students and what their ambitions were and where they were going. I passed one of his examinations, and evidently he was impressed by what he saw on the paper and invited me to his office, sat me down, said, "Young man, what are you going to do with yourself?" I told him I wanted to be a writer. He said, "Writer? Write what?" "I want to write plays." He was slightly taken aback. He said, "Where are you from?" He'd already heard the big-foot country accent in my voice. I said, "I'm from Waycross, Georgia." "I don't mean Waycr--yeah, Waycross, but where?" I said, "That's the name of the town." He said, "You want to write, you say?" "Yes." "Write plays for the theater?" I said, "Oh, yes." "Have you ever been in the theater?" "Oh, yeah. Every Saturday night in Waycross we used to go to see the cowboy pictures." "No, no, no, no. Live people up on the stage?" And I said, "Well, I did go to the Howard Theater [Washington, D.C.], and I saw Billie Holiday and Ethel Waters." He said, "No, that's still not it. Actors in a play up on stage. You never saw?" I said, "No, sir." "You're gonna write plays and you never even saw one play?" I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "Well, I tell you what you do. When you finish here, you go to New York where the theater is. Go to Harlem [New York], and there's a little theater group there called the Rose McClendon Players. You tell them I sent you. Ask them to let you join. If they let you join, then join the company, and once you join, you do everything that's possible for you to do--act, sing, dance, build scenery, paint sets, hustle lemonade, push programs--whatever." And this to me was such wisdom. I mean, this was what I had really come to college to find out so once he told me that, I had what I came so I didn't bother to stay to graduate. I decided to go to New York and find this little place. There was--our plan was--my friend and I who decided to go to New York--was to go on April 16th, 1939. It turned out that that was the Sunday Marian Anderson was going to sing at the [Abraham] Lincoln Memorial so we delayed our, delayed our departure for a full week so we could hear Marian Anderson, and standing there listening to that voice and becoming aware of what that voice was doing, reaching inside of me and making me--empowering me, making me bigger and stronger than what I, what I was. It was, it was almost like a religious conversion listening to Marian Anderson. But anyway that next Sunday, my friend and I caught the train from Penn [Pennsylvania] Station in Washington [D.C.] and went on up to Harlem. Now Medas, who as I said was West Indian, had worked out a ploy for my friend and me to survive for awhile. The ploy was this. I was to pretend that I was a West Indian and go into the West Indian community with this letter from Eldon, and if I were accepted, they would find me a job and do all those things so I took Eldon's letter, went to Harlem, found the people to whom he had written the letter, went to them. They found me a place to stay and ultimately found me a job in the garment center, and I got to Harlem Sunday, April 23rd, I think it was, and Monday the 24th, I found the Rose McClendon Players. It was situated at the 124th Street [public] library in the basement. I walked in the door, entered the theater, and I suppose that was the end of my search. I had found the place that was gonna be my home, my career, and everything--Rose McClendon Players.