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Educator Toolkit and Posters

Dear Educator:

The August Wilson Education Project Educator Toolkit includes a 37-page interactive teaching guide, a discussion guide for the August Wilson documentary, and a deck of cards (one for each play in Wilson's 10-play cycle) containing extension activities for the classroom and beyond.  The Toolkits are available to educators upon request. If you have ordered a toolkit, please note that we will begin mailing them out the week of January 26, 2015. 

 Teaching Guide

The 37-pageinteractive teaching guide, “Teaching August Wilson” (download)

The inside and outside covers (including Common Core Standards info) of the interactive teaching guide (download)

Deck of 10 cards containing extension activities for the classroom and beyond (download)

 Discussion Guide

A digital version of a discussion guide for the documentary August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand can be downloaded here.

If you would like to request educator toolkits or August Wilson Education Project posters (click the image below to view), or to learn join our mailing list, complete our brief interest form

August Wilsons' 10-Play Century Cycle

Have a question or want to share a resource from your classroom?  We want to hear from you! Contact us at

"Teaching Racially Charged Literature: Can 'N*gger' Be the Mot Juste?"

The language and themes in August Wilson’s work are challenging, intense, and often racially charged. In particular, Wilson’s use of the “n-word” may give some educators pause.  Here’s how Daniela Buccilli, a veteran English teacher in a suburban school district, addresses this issue:

I teach August Wilson’s award-winning play Fences (1986) to lower-tracked 11th graders in a predominately-white and conservative school district. My colleague and I use PDF icon The Meanings of a Word by Gloria Naylor.pdf(1986) to help us with the very beginning of the play, abeginning where Wilson has the hero Troy use the word “nigger."

I start the lesson (that usually spans two to three days2) with the announcement that I refuse to use the “n-word.”  I am honest about how the word makes me cringe to hear and to say—that growing up in the 70’s and 80’s as a white person has made the word nothing but a hate word for me; and I choose not to use hate language.  I may be old-fashioned, and you might think I’m wrong, or that I am being fussy or fearful; maybe you think I’m exaggerating, but I have made my decision based on information and experience that you will also have.  You will have to make your decision.  Don’t make a decision without being informed, though. Ignorant people do so. You may think you know everything about the n-word; let’s see. This lesson challenges students to decide what the word means to them after reading “The Meaning of the Word,” published the same year as the play. 

I am completely aware that my students already know the word, may have used the word, love music that uses the word, and now must read a play where the word appears many times in Act 1. The “ground rules” for class is that as the leader of the room, I will not permit the word to be used in my classroom because derogatory or hate words (as well as curse words) change the atmosphere of a classroom from an educational place to a toxic place. On the other hand, the word is absolutely appropriate when we quote the play, read aloud the play, or talk about the word as a word, itself.  I tell them that we honor Wilson’s craft choice by asking why the word “nigger” is the “mot juste” for the context in which it appears.  Wilson made intentional decisions, and so will you...



In Your Students' Words: Storytelling With Us!


Terrance Hayes

Got classroom and community projects, lessons, or other resources inspired by the life and work of August Wilson? We welcome your submissions!

Featured work may be highlighted on our blog, placed on our digital storytelling map (audio and video), and shared as an exemplar of student learning with other teachers around the nation.

Send your content to augustwilsonedu [at] wqed [dot] org.


Above: MacArthur Genius Fellow poet Terrance Hayes discusses monologues and persona poems with young playwrights

August Wilson Documentary Watch Party Discussion Guide

 doc logo

August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand is the definitive story of one of the most prolific playwrights of the 20th century, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, August Wilson.  The documentary is a co-production of PBS’ American Masters series and WQED Multimedia.  We've created a discussion guide to facilitate classroom and community conversations about August Wilson’s life, work, and impact. Click here to download.


Tags: documentary

Teaching August Wilson: Educator Panel Discussion

In September 2014, the August Wilson Education Project at WQED convened a panel of educators to discuss the importance of teaching Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson’s work, strategies for bringing August Wilson into the classroom, and ways to empower students to develop their own unique voices while exploring themes prevalent in Wilson’s work, such as community, identity, diversity, activism, self-reliance, and resilience.

The August Wilson Education Project is generously funded by The PNC Foundation and is presented in support of the documentary, August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, which is co-produced WQED Pittsburgh and the PBS series American Masters. The documentary premeries on PBS on February 20, 2015.

Tags: Video

Connecticut High School Performs “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” Over Superintendent’s Objections

Article:  The Waterbury, CT school board overruled its local high school superintendent’s decision to cancel the school’s production of Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. The superintendent and some others in the community objected to the use of the “n-word” in the play’s dialogue.

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August Wilson’s “Fences” Banned at Illinois High School

An Illinois high school canceled its production of Fences after a white student complained about the intentional choice of an all-black cast. This casting decision reflected Wilson’s own preference for casting of his plays, all of which focus on African American life in America.

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Staging the Race Debate: Flipping the script on race and the Harvard dramatic community

Over a decade after August Wilson’s public debate with drama critic Robert Brustein over the politics of black theater, the debate continues as discussed in this 2008 Harvard Crimson article.

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Credit: The Harvard Crimson

“Subsidized Separatism,” drama critic Robert Brustein’s rebuttal to “The Ground On Which I Stand”

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Credit: Theater Communications Group

Finding August Wilson’s Plays in Teenie Harris’ Photography

Take your students on a virtual field trip to the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Teenie Harris Archive, a collection of nearly 1,000 images from legendary Pittsburgh Courier photographer, Teenie Harris.  From 1920-1970, Harris chronicled the lives of African Americans in Pittsburgh through his camera lens, just as August Wilson did through his plays.  “Finding August Wilson’s Plays in Teenie Harris’ Photography” is a lesson that connects Wilson’s plays and Harris’ photography to your students’ own backyards!

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Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette