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August Wilson Society 10th Anniversary Conference: Home

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“ writing about black people, you are not limiting yourself. The experiences of African Americans are as wide open as God’s closet.”   
— August Wilson, playwright —

August Wilson (1945-2005)

The August Wilson Society (AWS) was established at Howard University in spring 2006 to develop multiple ways of sustaining and passing along August Wilson’s legacy.  

This fundamental mission is reflected in the interdisciplinary scope of the Society’s charter membership as well as in projects already slated to delve more deeply into the largely untapped interdisciplinary spectrum of his work. 

Sandra G. Shannon,
AWS Founder & President

Join us in our efforts to explore God’s wide-open closet! Help us discover the untold gifts and inspiring genius of August Wilson.

And, if you attended the recent 10th-anniversary conference of the Society, "An August Occasion," held in Washington, DC, October 6-8, please take a minute to complete our brief survey about the event so we can learn from your feedback. 



All the best!


Dr. Sandra G. Shannon is Professor of African American Literature in the Department of English at Howard University and a Fulbright Specialist in African American Studies. She is one of the nation’s leading scholars on the works of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, having authored two book-length studies on him and his work: The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson, one of the first book-length studies on the playwright; and August Wilson's Fences: A Reference Guide, a companion piece to "Fences," the sixth of Wilson's 10-play "Pittsburgh Cycle" and one of his most powerful works. She recently edited August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle: Critical Perspectives on the Plays and co-edited two essay collections: MLA Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson and August Wilson and Black AestheticsDr. Shannon also served as key consultant in the making of the PBS American Masters documentary, "August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand," which aired in February 2015.                                                          


Program Initiatives

The August Wilson Society's (AWS) programs aim to: 


  • Extend awareness of and knowledge about the dramatic vision and integrity of August Wilson
  • Sustain and develop artistic and educational programs that focus on August Wilson's contributions to theatre nationally and internationally

AWS objectives:

  • Maintain a website that collects and highlights books, articles, panels, conferences, and other works about August Wilson or addressing his key themes

  • Sponsor regular symposia, forums, lectures, teacher training workshops, student performances, and conferences that focus on the work of August Wilson

  • Have a presence at various leading academic conferences such as MLA, CLA, ATDS, and ATHE

  • Serve as a clearing house for materials and information related to the work of August Wilson

  • Publish a biannual online newsletter

History of the August Wilson Society

The August Wilson Society (AWS) was founded within the College of Arts and Sciences in spring 2006, shortly after the passing of August Wilson at age 60.  In the wake of the death of this major voice on African American cultural history, this organization became the brainchild of a group of Howard University scholars, many of whom had been inspired by the April 2005 national conference, Situating August Wilson in the Canon and in the Curriculum that was conceived by English Department Professor and nationally recognized Wilson scholar, Dr. Sandra Shannon and convened at Howard University

Mission of the Society


AWS defines itself as an interdisciplinary learning community of instructors, students, and theatre lovers who remain dedicated to commemorating August Wilson’s legacy by promoting the studying, the teaching, the researching, and the ultimate safeguarding of the rich narrative of the African American past that Wilson has bequeathed to us in the form of 10 plays that chronicle the stories of African Americans from 1904 to 1997.

AWS also considers its major objective to be keeping in the forefront for current generations of students a major writer and artist who dedicated his life and genius to chronicling and rendering into poetry and drama, the history, decade by decade, of African Americans in the twentieth century. From the 1980s through the beginning of the twenty-first century, Wilson made America and the world more aware of the saga of a people struggling to gain status in a country that they had helped to build. Through the immensity and ambition of his vision, Wilson crafted a series of linked narratives that not only captured many of the untold stories of the black experience but that also increased the presence of African American performers and theatrical talent in theatres throughout the United States as well as beyond its borders.

Because of August Wilson, the doors of mainstream theaters opened wider than before to the voice and perspectives of African descended people, many of whom are involuntary immigrants in this country.

Charter Members of the AWS

Charter Members  (at Howard University)

  • Professor Kim Bey, Theatre Arts
  • Dr. Gregory CarrAfro-American Studies    
  • Dr. Mbye ChamAfrican Studies
  • Dr. Elizabeth Clark-LewisHistory
  • Dr. Floyd Coleman, Art
  • Dr. Patrick Goodin, Philosophy
  • Dr. Jules Harrell, Psychology
  • Professor Denise J. Hart, Theatre Arts
  • Dr. Sais Kamalidiin, Music
  • Professor Joe Selmon (deceased), Theatre Arts
  • Dr. Dana Williams, English

Dr. Sandra G. Shannon, English, Founder and President


Information to Come

Board of Directors

Governing body with staggered three-year memberships.


Honorary Directors

Those who have served the society with distinction in the past.


Information to Come

Honorary Members

Those in the world of theatre, academia, journalism, the media, etc. who have contributed their talents to keeping alive the genius of August Wilson.