Ed Bradley said in 2002 about August Wilson, "He's one of the most acclaimed playwrights of our time, as well as one of the most popular. Not bad for a high school dropout from Pittsburgh who most people thought would never amount to anything. But for as long as he can remember, August Wilson's been driven by a passion to write."
This week on 60 Minutes,speaks with Jon Wertheim about playing the title role in the Netflix film adaptation of Wilson's play, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Bradley reported that the play established Wilson as a major new voice in the American theater. It also led to a breakthrough moment between Wilson and his mother.
"She told me she was proud of me. She was dying at the time, but she came--she came and saw the play," Wilson told Bradley. "And she was very proud."
Born Frederick August Kittel, Wilson grew up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. After dropping out of school when he was 15 years old, he spent his days in the public library educating himself. Over the next few years, Wilson, by his own estimation, read hundreds of books, and what he didn't learn in the library, he said he learned on the streets of Pittsburgh, where he spent years listening to the stories and the voices that would later become the raw material for his plays.
Wilson, who died in 2005, is best known for his series of ten plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century, which together tell the story of the African-American journey.