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Ed Bullins -  (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Ed Bullins, Leading Playwright of the Black Arts Movement, Dies

November 23rd, 2021 | By Caitlin Moynihan

Ed Bullins, one of the leading playwrights of the Black Arts Movement, died on November 13 at his home in Roxbury, Massachusetts due to complications of dementia, according to The New York Times. He was 86.

Known as one of most significant Black playwrights of the 1960s and 1970s, Bullins was born in July 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He started his writing career by creating the magazine Citadel and writing short stories. He then joined the creative writing program at San Francisco State College, where he began writing plays. His first play, Clara’s Ole Man, premiered on August 5, 1965, at San Francisco’s Firehouse Repertory Theatre.

Bullins became involved with the Black Arts Movement, a group of Black playwrights, novelists and poets focused on capturing the modern Black experience. He would become the chief artist in residence at Black House, a community center in San Francisco that served as a headquarters for both the Black Arts Movement and the Black Panthers, where he also served as minister of culture.

In 1968, Bullins won his first Drama Desk Award for his trilogy play The Electronic N***** and Others. Bullins premiered many plays at New York’s La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, including Street Sounds, Short Bullins and more.

His 55-year career includes over 100 plays, including In the Wine Time (1968), The Taking of Miss Janie (1975), The Duplex: A Black Love Fable in Four Movements (1970) and DADDY! (1977). Bullins’ last produced work was King Aspelta: A Nubian Coronation, which was released in 2000.

Throughout his career, Bullins won three Obie Awards, two Guggenheim grants, a New York Drama Critics Circle Award (for The Taking of Miss Janie in 1975), two Black Arts Alliance Awards and Theatre Communications Group’s Visionary Leadership Award.

He is surived by his wife Marva Sparks, two sons, three daughters and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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