Douglas Turner Ward, playwright, actor, director, producer, dramaturg and visionary, was born in Burnside, Louisiana in 1930 under the name of Roosevelt Ward Jr. He spent his early years on a Sugar Cane/Rice Plantation where both his mother and father worked as field hands. At age sixteen he went to Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio hoping to obtain a football scholarship to a prestigious college. But Wilberforce didn’t have any kind of football program and although he was a journalism major he found time for theatre. Later on due to the way he saw African Americans being treated in the US he became interested in Marxist ideology and in time became a youth leader in New York’s Left Wing Political Movement. During that time he met Lorraine Hansberry and Lonne Elder who became lifelong friends. Both credits Ward as inspiration for their playwriting careers. In 1967 after the success of his plays Happy Ending and Day of Absence Ward wrote an article for the New York Times entitled “American Theatre for Whites Only” in which he proposed the creation of a professional all black theatre company dedicated to training black theatre practitioners and artists along with producing black plays. Ward and his colleagues Robert Hooks and Gerry Krone were approached by the Ford Foundation to make real such a dream and the NEC (or Negro Ensemble Company) was founded with Doug Ward as its artistic director.
Who is Douglas Turner Ward?