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Douglas Turner Ward
*Douglas Turner Ward was born on this date in 1930. He is a Black playwright, actor, director, and theatrical producer.
His birth name was Roosevelt Ward Jr., born in Burnside, Louisiana. His mother was Dorothy Ward (née Short), and his father was Roosevelt Ward, both plantation workers. His great, great grandmother Elnora was owned by Nathan Bedford Forest, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, and bore a child from Ward's parents moved to New Orleans when he was only eight years old, where his father took a position as foreman on the docks during World War II. When the war ended, and white workers returned to civilian life, Roosevelt Ward went into the tailoring business with his wife, Dorothy Short Ward, a seamstress.
Douglas Turner Ward showed an emerging talent for sports, becoming a member of the track and football teams at Wilberforce College in Ohio and later at the University of Michigan. When a knee injury knocked him off the teams, he began reading widely and became interested in communism and left-wing organizations. By 1948 he was living in New York City, writing for the leftist newspaper the Daily Worker. As an actor, Turner made his Broadway debut in a small role in A Raisin in the Sun. His first significant artistic achievement would be as a playwright, however. Happy Ending/Day of Absence, a program of two one-act plays, premiered at the St. Mark's Playhouse in Manhattan on November 15, 1965, and ran for 504 performances.
He is married to Diane Powell Ward, and they have a daughter, Elizabeth Ward. Ward received a Drama Desk Award for his playwriting. In 1967, he was one of the founders of the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) and served for many years as its artistic director. He produced the ensemble company’s version of a Soldier’s Play during that time.