August Wilson Society's Biennial Colloquium: Excavating New Critical Landscapes for August Wilson Studies

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
August Wilson Society and the August Wilson African American Cultural Center
contact email: 

“The August Wilson Archive is our most important [collection] to date, and we believe it will present innumerable opportunities for local, national, and international researchers

to create new knowledge.”

Kornelia Tancheva, PhD, Hillman University Librarian and Director of University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS)

The August Wilson Society (AWS) joins the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the University
of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS), the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, and theater lovers around the world in celebrating the grand opening of the August Wilson Archive in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 2-4, 2023.

The August Wilson Archives arrived at the ULS in 450 boxes of materials documenting a
wide array of Wilson’s career and interests from the 1960s to 2010. Included are scripts and production materials of his American Century Cycle plays, Wilson’s personal library and music collection, artwork, poetry, unpublished work including non-Cycle plays, speeches, essays,
and interviews. Materials range from Wilson’s personal library and music collection, artwork, audio recordings, awards and degrees, books, correspondence, newspapers, and magazines to notebooks, writing tablets, photographs, posters, production designs, props, scripts, and video recordings. Currently being processed, the collection is scheduled to be available for research in 2023.


“American society as a whole has a very short memory. There are a lot of things we don’t know or have allowed ourselves to forget.”

August Wilson, American Playwright (1945-2005)

Organizers of the August Wilson Society’s Biennial Colloquium are seeking proposals for individual papers, panels, individual papers, theatrical presentations, or workshops that interrogate stories of cultural memory and survival inspired by the work of three Pittsburgh institutions to preserve August Wilson’s legacy. This unique national gathering welcomes all academic disciplines, including artists, educators, theater practitioners, archivists, museum specialists, historians, scholars, Wilson aficionados, and African American specialists. Graduate student proposals are also welcome.

We welcome abstracts for fully assembled panels, papers, or workshops that address, but are not limited to, the following broad questions:

  • ●  What is the significance of bequeathing archival materials of living artists and Black Theater makers?

  • ●  How does archival research inform new theatrical and other artistic forms of expression?

  • ●  How does the African American artist provide space for hard conversations with hard histories?

  • ●  How can educators inspire student interest in memory and preservation work?

  • ●  What is the relationship between Wilson's legacy, black culture, and Afrofuturism?

  • ●  How does the 2013 Jerome L. Green Performance Space Recordings Wilson’s American Century Cycle plays complicate notions of archival material?

  • ●  What were August Wilson’s ideas on the importance of preserving one’s personal history and/or cultural history? How do his ideas resonate?

  • ●  What is the impact of Wilson's legacy as Pittsburgh’s newest heritage tourism?

  • ●  Nurture or nature? Define the continuing role of Wilson’s 4B’s (blues, Baraka, Bearden, and Borges) in understanding and analyzing Wilson’s plays.

  • ●  How do children and youth factor in Wilson’s work and legacy?

  • ●  Wilson mentions Nigerian Wole Soyinka and Guinean Sekou Toure in interviews. Is there a space for international collaboration?

  • ●  How does faith, folklore, and spiritualism express African diasporic connection in Wilson’s work?

    Abstracts of no more than 150 words should be uploaded to our Google form by December 12, 2022.

    Link to the AWS Biennial Colloquium form (


For more information about the August Wilson Archive, please click here. (

The University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh has acquired the archive of the late playwright and Pittsburgh native son August Wilson, best known for his unprecedented American Century Cycle — ten plays that convey the Black experience in each decade of the 20th century. All ten of the plays have had Broadway productions and two earned Wilson the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Wilson, a master storyteller, honed his craft by walking the streets of his Hill District neighborhood as a young man, observing, and immersing himself in Black street life, listening to old-timers talk about their daily lives. It inspired what would become his plays’ vibrant characters and lyrical language.

The Broadway and film casts of Wilson’s American Century Cycle plays have included Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Charles S. Dutton, Viola Davis, Laurence Fishburne, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Delroy Lindo, Phylicia Rashad, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Alfre Woodard, and Denzel Washington. “The Piano Lesson,” “Fences,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” have all been produced into films.