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James Theodore Ward
*James Theodore Ward was born on this date in 1902. He was a Black author and playwright.
From Thibodaux, LA, he was one of eleven children from the family of John Ward and Louise Pierre Ward. Young Ward wrote a play as a child though his father was non-supportive. In 1936, he won second prize in a writing competition for his one-act presentation, Sick ‘n Tiahd. This led to his acquaintance with Richard Wright, who won first prize. Through Wright, Ward joined the Chicago Writers Workshop of the WPA Federal Theatre Project, where he wrote a critical piece for Big White Fog, a production about the Garvey Movement.
When the WPA ended, Ward brought the play to New York, where it became the first production of the Negro Playwrights Company. In 1947 Our Lan, Ward’s play about the Reconstruction South, was moved from a successful run at the Henry Street Settlement Playhouse to Broadway’s Royale Theatre. The play ran on Broadway for 42 performances before it closed. In 1949, Ward became the first Black dramatist awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, enabling him to write a play about the abolitionist John Brown. The play was later produced in Chicago at the Skyloft Theatre in 1951.
His play, The Daubers, was produced in Chicago in 1969. Over his lifetime, Ward wrote over 30 theatrical productions, essays, poetry, and pieces of two folk operas. James Theodore Ward lived and worked in Chicago from 1968 until 1983.