Playwright August Wilson was born on April 27, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His experiences of living in a primarily black community and then being the only black student in his class at a Roman Catholic high school would inform his dramatic writings. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and continued his education on his own. Wilson wrote a ten play cycle that chronicles each decade of the black experience in the 20th century. Each of his plays focuses on what he perceived as the largest issue to confront African-Americans in that decade. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Fences and Piano Lesson, the best play Tony Award for Fences, and seven New York Drama Critics' Circle awards. He also received the Whiting Foundation Award, the American Theatre Critics Award, the 1999 National Humanities Medal awarded by the President, and numerous honorary degrees. He died of liver cancer on October 2, 2005 at the age of 60.
Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio on February 18, 1931. She received a B.A. in English from Howard University in 1953 and a master's degree in English from Cornell University in 1955 with her thesis on the theme of suicide in modern literature. She taught at several universities including Texas Southern University, Howard University, and Princeton University. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. Her other works include Sula, Tar Baby, Jazz, Paradise, Love, A Mercy, and Home. She has won several awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1977 for Song of Solomon, the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1988, the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. She also co-wrote children's books with her younger son, Slade Morrison, including The Big Box, The Book of Mean People, and Peeny Butter Fudge.