American century cycle

a play for each decade

August Wilson's crowning achievement is The American Century Cycle, also known as The Pittsburgh Cycle ~ his series of ten plays that chart the African American experience throughout the twentieth century .

1900

View this timeline that charts the first decade of the twentieth century to get a glimpse into life of the plight of the African American in the United States

1929

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Gem of the Ocean

Citizen Barlow enters the home of the 285-year-old Aunt Ester who guides him on a spiritual journey to the City of Bones.

(2003)

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1900's

1910's

1910

America saw its first wave of the Great Migration in 1910. The escape from racial violence only to be met with racial discrimination epitomizes the hardship of this decade.

1919

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Joe Turner's

Come and Gone

The themes of racism and discrimination come to the fore in this play about a few freed African American slaves.

(1988)

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1920's

1920

African American society in the 1920s expressed a strong sense of cultural identity. The Harlem Renaissance was at the center of this literary and artistic awakening.

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Ma Rainey's

Black Bottom

Ma Rainey’s ambitions of recording an album of songs are jeopardized by the ambitions and decisions of her band.

(1984)

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1930's

1930

Last hired and first fired was the norm for the average African American in the wake of the Great Depression, and with that came the pain and anguish of making hard choices for survival.

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The Piano Lesson

Brother and sister Boy Willie and Berniece clash over whether or not they should sell an ancient piano that was exchanged for their great grandfather’s wife and son in the days of slavery.

(1990)

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1940's

1940

The Jim Crow Era was very ramped during the 1940s, which made the African American fight a war at home as much as it was a war abroad.

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Seven Guitars

Starting with the funeral of one of the seven characters, the play tracks the events that lead to the death.

(1995)

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1950's

1950

African Americans had been fighting against racial discrimination for centuries; during the 1950s, however, the struggle against racism and segregation entered the mainstream of American life.

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Fences

Race relations are explored again in this tale which starts with a couple of garbage men who wonder why they can’t become garbage truck drivers.

(1987)

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1960's

1960

Outlawing discrimination on several facets, the Civil Rights Act ushered in promise for the country while leaving the African American community with uncertainty of their future.

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Two Trains Running

Looking at the Civil Rights movement of the sixties, this play details the uncertain future promised to African Americans at the time.

(1987)

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1970's

1970

Racial tensions were high in 1970, as blacks became frustrated with economic conditions that did not improve despite advancements in civil rights.

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Jitney

Looking at the Civil Rights movement of the sixties, this play details the uncertain future promised to African Americans at the time.

(1982)

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1980's

1980

Racial tensions were high in 1970, as blacks became frustrated with economic conditions that did not improve despite advancements in civil rights.

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King Hedley II

One of Wilson’s darkest plays, an ex-con tries to start afresh by selling refrigerators with the intent of buying a video store. Characters from Seven Guitars reappear throughout.

(1999)

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1990's

1990

African Americans faced advances and setbacks equally in the 1990's, which forced upon the community a quest for identity.

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Radio Golf

Aunt Ester returns in this modern story of city politics and the quest from two monied Pittsburgh men to try and redevelop an area of Pittsburgh.

(2005)

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