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Gordone, Charles(1925–1995) - Playwright, actor, Chronology

drama fleming camille receives

The first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for drama was Charles Gordone in 1970 for the dramatic work No Place To Be Somebody . Gordone took the theater world by storm and brought a new type of race consciousness to the stage. His play came on the scene in the 1960s when people embraced the emergence of long silenced African American voices. Its truths brought many awards to Gordone and the opportunity to produce more plays, screenplays, and creative projects. Although other works of equal attention eluded Gordone for the balance of his career, he continued to contribute to both stage and screen. In his later years he was a distinguished lecturer at Texas Agricultural & Mechanical University and continued to do some acting. Gordone saw himself not as a producer of African American or black theater, as it was called, but as someone who presented human experiences not splintered by race. In an interview with Susan Smith he stated, “I don’t write out of a black experience or a white experience; it’s American.” Gordone left a body of work that was both multiracial and cross-cultural.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 12, 1925 with a mixed race heritage, Charles Edward Fleming was the son of William Fleming and Camille Morgan Fleming. The family later moved to Elkhart, Indiana, his mother’s hometown. Also in the family were two other siblings, Jack and Stanley. Charles and Camille Fleming parted ways, and in 1930 Camille Fleming married William Lee Gordon. The entire family embraced the name Gordon and grew to include seven children. Gordone (the letter “e” was added later in life) had some challenges growing up in the Midwestern town of Elkhart. His stepfather was an auto mechanic and his mother was a former circus acrobat and dancer in Harlem’s Cotton Club. William and Camille Gordon and their seven children lived on the white side of town which alienated racial identification particularly for their son and raised questions about his family’s racial loyalties. Gordone often found himself rejected by the whites who dominated the town and by the blacks whom he knew. In spite of these difficulties, he excelled academically and as an athlete.

Chronology

1925

Born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 12

1952

Receives B.A. in drama from California State University, Los Angeles

1953

Receives Obie Award for role in Of Mice and Men

1959

Marries Jeanne Warner

1962

Creates Committee for the Employment of Negro Actors, cofounder and chairman

1964

Produces first drama, Little More Light around the Place

1967

Appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to Commission on Civil Disorders; writes drama No Place To Be Somebody

1970

Receives Pulitzer Prize for drama, Critics Circle Award, and Drama Desk Award all for No Place To Be Somebody

1971

Receives grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters

1985

Obtains D. H. Lawrence Fellowship in New Mexico; supporting role in movie Angel Heart

1987

Begins teaching affiliation with Texas A&M University

1995

Dies in College Station, Texas on November 13

Gordy, Berry (1929–) [next] [back] Gordon, Linda (1940–) - U.S. Women’s and Family History; Modern Russian History

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