Civil rights playwright featured in series at Elkhart County Historical Museum

The Elkhart County Historical Museum is hosting the second edition of their lecture series 'People of Elkhart'.

They're featuring American playwright and civil rights activist, Charles Gordone.

Gordone was born in Cleveland, Ohio-- but his family moved to Elkhart when he was still a young boy.

During Black History Month we remember figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Whitney Young. Gordone was fighting for civil rights alongside them.

After leaving Elkhart after high school he went on to begin his career in the theater.

Gordone acted with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, but it was his quest for racial equality that stands out.

"One of the big things he was always advocating for was equal representation in the arts,” said Patrick McGuire, Curator of Education.

Gordone realized very early in his career that minorities were cast in secondary roles. He became the Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality's Committee for Employment of Negro Performers.

Drawing inspiration from his own life, he wrote a play which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in drama.

He was the first African-American to win the coveted award in that category.

"One of the things the critics were writing at the time was that it brought to life those communities that you don't really see a whole bunch of,” said McGuire. “So I think that's what he was most known for it the period."

Gordone was actively involved in the push for equality in performing arts. Often casting minorities in main roles like in the play ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.

Gordone died at his home in Texas in 1995, but now he’s getting the recognition he deserves in the place where he grew up.

"He talks about when he grew up it wasn't segregated here in school in Elkhart. He was going to school with all different nationalities and cultures. So I think that was kind of a thread you see throughout his life,” McGuire said.

The program starts Saturday. It's from 11-noon at the Elkhart County Historical Museum.

After the presentation they're going to show a film written and narrated by Gordone called ‘The American Negro’.

It's never been released and some suspect in was never finished, but it's been digitized by the National Archives.

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