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Bullins, Ed, undated

 File — Multiple Containers

Scope and Contents

Playwright Ed Bullins spoke to the Black Experience in the Arts course (2015-0002/AC6). Unfortunately no date is attached to his lecture so it unknown when he spoke to students.

Bullins' work earned him New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards as well as Obie Awards (for off-Broadway productions). He also served as Minister of Culture for the Black Panthers.

AC 6 The recording begins with questions and answers by an unidentified woman, no introduction, the male interviewee (not Ed Bullins) begins talking about writing in a GI press in Germany, meeting Langston Hughes, his writing style and working on a tv show. Side B [0:278:48] is Ed Bullins (playwright) reads from his writing. [Static makes it difficult to hear]


  • undated

Conditions Governing Access

Links to digitized content are included in the finding aid.

Biographical / Historical

Edward Artie Bullins was born on July 2, 1935, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was raised primarily by his mother.[2] As a child, he attended a predominantly white elementary school and became involved with a gang. He attended Benjamin Franklin High School, where he was stabbed in a gang-related incident. Shortly thereafter, he dropped out of high school and joined the navy. During this period, he won a boxing championship, returned to Philadelphia, and enrolled in night school. He stayed in Philadelphia until moving to Los Angeles in 1958. He married poet and activist Pat Parker (then Patricia Cooks) in 1962. Parker accused him of violence and she and Bullins separated after four years.

After completing his G.E.D., Bullins enrolled in Los Angeles City College and began writing short stories for Citadel, a magazine he started. In 1964, he moved to San Francisco and joined the creative writing program at San Francisco State College, where he started writing plays. Clara's Ole Man, which premiered on August 5, 1965, at San Francisco's Firehouse Repertory Theatre, is about an Ivy Leaguer who meets the titular Clara and several other "strange and unpleasant characters" who show her the "realities of ghetto life". It turns out that "Clara's ole man" is actually Clara's partner, a woman.

After seeing Amiri Baraka's play Dutchman, Bullins felt that Baraka's artistic purpose was similar to his own. He joined Baraka at Black House, the Black Arts Movement's cultural center, along with Sonia Sanchez, Huey Newton, Marvin X, and others. A 2005 history of the Black Arts Movement described Bullins as among the "leading … theater workers" of the Movement. The Black Panthers used Black House as their base in San Francisco, where Bullins was their minister of culture as of the 1960s. Black House eventually split into two opposing factions: one group, led by Eldridge Cleaver, considered art to be a weapon and advocated joining with "all oppressed people", including whites, to bring about a socialist revolution; while the other group, represented by Marvin X and Baraka, considered art to be a form of cultural nationalism. Bullins was part of the latter group. While in San Francisco, Bullins founded Black Arts/West, a theater collective inspired by Baraka's Harlem-based Black Arts Repertory Theatre project.

The director Robert Macbeth read Bullins' plays and asked him to join the New Lafayette Players, a theatrical group. The first production the New Lafayette Players performed was a trilogy called The Electronic Nigger and Others at The American Place Theatre. Electronic Nigger was about a Black man who imitates the views of the white majority. The trilogy earned Bullins a Drama Desk Award for 1968. The trilogy's title was later changed to Ed Bullins Plays for what Bullins called "financial reasons". Bullins worked with the Lafayette Players until 1972, when the group ended due to lack of funding. During these years, ten of Bullins's plays were produced by the Players, including In the Wine Time and Goin' a Buffalo.

Bullins returned to the East Coast in 1967. From 1973, he was playwright-in-residence at the American Place Theatre. He founded the Bronx-based Surviving Theatre, active from 1974 to around 1980. From 1975 to 1983, he was on staff at The Public Theater with the New York Shakespeare Festival's Writers' Unit. During these years, Bullins wrote two children's plays, titled I Am Lucy Terry and The Mystery of Phillis Wheatley. He also wrote the text for two musicals, titled Sepia Star (1977)[22] and Storyville (1979).

Bullins later returned to school, and received a bachelor's degree in English and playwriting from Antioch University in San Francisco. As of the late 1980s, Bullins taught drama at the City College of San Francisco. In 1995, he became a professor at Northeastern University.

In addition to Bullins's playwriting, he wrote short stories and novels, including The Hungered One and The Reluctant Rapist. The Reluctant Rapist features Bullins's alter ego, Steve Benson, who appears in many of Bullins's works.

Bullins died aged 86 on November 13, 2021, in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts.

Edward Artie Bullins sometimes published under the name Kingsley B. Bass, Jr.

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1 Cassettes (Audio cassette tape recording ) : AC 6 1 cassette, Side A-0:27:51, Side B-0:27:39.

Language of Materials

From the Series: English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US