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Douglas Turner Ward papers, circa 1957-2012

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322


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Collection Stored Off-Site

All or portions of this collection are housed off-site. Materials can still be requested but researchers should expect a delay of up to two business days for retrieval.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Ward, Douglas Turner.
Title: Douglas Turner Ward papers, circa 1957-2012
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 1394
Extent: 38.75 linear feet (41 boxes), 6 oversized papers boxes (OP), and AV Masters: .25 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:Papers of African American playwright Douglas Turner Ward including scripts, correspondence, records of the Negro Ensemble Company, photographs, and printed material.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Use copies have not been made for audiovisual material in this collection. Researchers must contact the Rose Library at least two weeks in advance for access to these items. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder the Rose Library's ability to provide access to audiovisual material.

Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Special restrictions apply: Printed or manuscript music in this collection that is still under copyright protection and is not in the Public Domain may not be photocopied or photographed. Researchers must provide written authorization from the copyright holder to request copies of these materials.


Purchase, 2017


[after identification of item(s)], Douglas Turner Ward papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Arranged and described at the item and box levels by Sarah Quigley, March 2017. The collection was packed and prepared for transfer from Douglas Turner Ward's home to the Rose Library by the staff of the Boo Hooray gallery in New York City in 2016. Most of the collection remains physically arranged in the order in which it was received by the Rose Library. Scripts are described in alphabetical order, by author, at the item level to facilitate access but the order that the scripts are presented in the container list does not reflect the physical order of the scripts within boxes. Other material such as photographs and printed material have been slightly rearranged to consolidate materials by format.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Douglas Turner Ward, African American actor and playwright, was born in Burnside, Louisiana, on May 5, 1930, to Roosevelt and Dorothy Ward. He attended Wilberforce University (Wilberforce, Ohio) from 1946-1947 and the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan) from 1947-1948. Ward moved to New York City in 1948 and began writing for the Daily Worker. He worked as journalist until 1951 when he was arrested for evading the draft and jailed in Louisiana for three months. He was required to spend the next two years in Louisiana, though the Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction. From 1955-1958, Ward studied with Paul Mann at the Actor's Workshop in New York City and in 1959, he understudied, under Sidney Poitier, the role of Walter Lee Younger in the premiere Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.

He completed writing his first two plays, Happy Ending and A Day of Absence, in 1960, but was not able to stage them until 1965 when they appeared together on a double bill at St. Mark's Playhouse (New York, New York). In 1967, Ward co-founded the Negro Ensemble Company with producers Robert Hooks and Gerald Krone. The company produced plays written and performed by black artists about black life in America and the Caribbean. Alumni of the company include Angela Basset, Roscoe Lee Brown, Lawrence Fishburne, David Allen Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Garrett Morris, Roscoe Orman, Phylicia Rashad, Esther Rolle, and Denzel Washington. The company operated continuously until 1992, when funding problems forced its closure. It was resurrected in 2005 as the Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. and continues to operate in New York City.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of Douglas Turner Ward and includes scripts, correspondence, Negro Ensemble Company records, photographs, and printed material. Scripts include play scripts, screenplays, and teleplays primarily produced by the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) and written by such artists as Ray Aranha, Gus Edwards, Charles Fuller, Paul Carter Harrison, Leslie E. Lee, Barbara and Carlton Molette, Derek Walcott, Joseph Walker, and Douglas Turner Ward. Correspondence is primarily professional letters between Ward and playwrights, producers, and others in the theater and film industries. NEC records include production notes, set designs, track sheets, call sheets, and reports relating to various stage and film productions, including A Soldier's Play (1981), the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Charles Fuller. The majority of photographs are headshots of actors who auditioned or performed with the NEC. Photographs also include slides and contact sheets of NEC performances, including A Soldier's Play, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, and the original performance of A Day of Absence. Printed material consists mainly of clippings of reviews of NEC productions, though there are some programs and other printed items relating to NEC plays.

Arrangement Note

Organized into three series: (1) Scripts, (2) Correspondence and Negro Ensemble Company records, and (3) Photographs and printed material.

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Description of Series