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Lloyd Richards

Influential actor and director Lloyd Richards was born on June 29, 1919, in Toronto, Canada. His father, a Jamaican “Garveyite” master carpenter, moved the family to Detroit in search of a job at Henry Ford’s automobile plant. However, misfortune struck early when his father died unexpectedly and Richards and his older brother took odd jobs to keep the family afloat.

After high school, Richards enrolled in pre-law at Wayne State University. However, he found that his real interest was in acting and radio programming. After fighting in World War II, he returned to Detroit and remained active in local theater and broadcasting. In fact, he became part of a local theater troupe and was hired on air as a radio announcer. In the 1950s, Richards moved to New York City hoping to make his mark. He supported himself by working several jobs, doing plays and television spots, and eventually worked as an acting coach. In the late 1950s, friend Sidney Poitier asked Richards to direct a play, A Raisin in the Sun, by a then-unknown black playwright, Lorraine Hansberry. It was Broadway’s first play by a black woman and he was its director.

Always committed to teaching, in the wake of Raisin, Richards began as a drama instructor at New York University School of the Arts and Hunter College. Later, he became director of the National Playwrights’ Conference at the O’Neill Theater and the dean of the prestigious Yale School of Drama and artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre. It was in these capacities that Richards influenced the careers of many playwrights and actors, including Athol Fugard, August Wilson and James Earl Jones. With Wilson he developed a lasting partnership as Richards went on to direct and produce the first seven of Wilson’s plays to reach Broadway. Richards won a Tony in 1986 for his direction of Wilson’s play, Fences.

Richards was a professor emeritus at the Yale School of Drama and served on several artistic and theatrical boards, including the National Endowment for the Arts. Richards received numerous awards, including several honorary degrees, and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Richards died on his birthday on Thursday, June 29, 2006. He was 87 years old.

Accession Number

A2001.064

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/11/2001

Last Name

Richards

Maker Category
Middle Name

G.

Organizations
Schools

Sampson Elementary School

McMichael Intermediate School

Northwestern High School

Wayne State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lloyd

Birth City, State, Country

Toronto

HM ID

RIC03

Favorite Season

Fall

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/29/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Canada

Favorite Food

Lobster, Ribs

Death Date

6/29/2006

Short Description

Stage actor, academic administrator, and theater director Lloyd Richards (1919 - 2006 ) directed A Raisin in the Sun, Broadway's first play by an African American woman. Richards later became director of the National Playwrights' Conference at the O'Neill Theater and the dean of the prestigious Yale School of Drama as well as artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre. Richards died on his birthday on Thursday, June 29, 2006.

Employment

National Playwrights Conference

Yale University

Favorite Color

Blue, Forest Green

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lloyd Richards interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards remembers his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards recounts his family's move from Toronto, Canada to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards reflects upon his West Indian heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lloyd Richards recalls the sights, smells and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lloyd Richards remembers an influential aunt

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards gives an overview of his schooling

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards recalls his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards recounts his budding interest in theater arts

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards describes race relations in 1930s Detroit

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards remembers his college prospects

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lloyd Richards explains his family situation

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lloyd Richards recounts his pursuits as a college student

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lloyd Richards recalls his stint in the U.S. military

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lloyd Richards discusses his employment as a social worker

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lloyd Richards remembers his Detroit theater group, the Actors Company

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards discusses his early radio and theater performances

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards reviews his roles with the Actors Company, Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards explains his decision to move to New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards recounts lessons learned on the New York theater circuit

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards discusses his pursuit of the theater arts in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards details his early employment opportunities in New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards reflects upon his Broadway debut

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards recalls his partnership with Sidney Poitier

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards remembers fellow actors, New York, New York, 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards remembers the team behind the Broadway production of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards recalls support for the production of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards discusses the casting of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards recounts the tour of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards explains the collaborations behind 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards reflects upon reviews of 'A Raisin the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lloyd Richards evaluates the appeal of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lloyd Richards remembers Lorraine Hansberry and Philip Rose

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards remembers performances from his career in theater

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards recalls his introduction to playwright August Wilson

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards recounts his partnership with playwright August Wilson

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards discusses his involvement with the National Playwrights Conference

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards discusses his role with the Yale Repertory Theatre

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lloyd Richards reflects on the course of his career

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lloyd Richards considers his legacy

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

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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.