Rather than remove Foster, add a tribute to August Wilson
With all the attention being paid to the Stephen Foster memorial, I’ve waited for someone to suggest a statue of playwright August Wilson (1945-2005) for Oakland, near the Carnegie Library.
He was a Pittsburgher born and bred who wrote a cycle of 10 plays (nine set in Pittsburgh) about the black experience in 20thcentury America, one play for each decade. He won two Pulitzer Prizes and had a theater in New York’s theater district named after him (2003) as well as the August Wilson Center in Downtown Pittsburgh (2009). His house in the Hill District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (2013).
Wilson quit high school after being falsely accused of plagiarism by a teacher, then continued to educate himself at the Carnegie Library, which in 1989 gave him an honorary high school graduation certificate, as advocated by activist library director Robert Croneberger.
Wilson was proud of this and considered himself a graduate of the library, which enabled black empowerment through self-education.
In front of Carnegie Library and Institute in Oakland, with its names of great writers — Dickens, Voltaire, Shakespeare and Emerson — we could easily (perhaps) have a realistic statue of playwright Wilson, with the titles of his successful plays carved in the base of the monument, just as Robert Burns’ statue at Phipps Conservatory bears the names of his famous poems.
Wilson is buried in Greenfield Cemetery in O’Hara, near his mother, sister and grandmother. On his tombstone is his provocative epitaph: “Wherever you are you are. I’m here.” Could we repeat that on his monument?
Instead of removing from Oakland the statue to Pittsburgh’s greatest songwriter, Stephen Foster, we could simply add nearby a statue to Pittsburgh’s greatest playwright, August Wilson. How hard is this?
The civic-minded librarian Bob Croneberger would have voted for it. ROBERT GANGEWERE