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Melissa N. Stein

When Margaret Wilkerson was born, a rich tradition of black theater was developing that challenged the exaggerated caricature of minstrelsy and provided a vehicle for black talent outside mainstream theatrical productions, where African Americans were still largely relegated to bit parts or minstrel roles and black life was rarely represented realistically. However, this picture changed considerably over the course of Wilkerson’s life and career. As a scholar of theater arts and a prolific artist herself, Wilkerson has both chronicled and contributed to the creative boom in and increasing visibility of black theater in America.

Born in Los Angeles to George and Gladys Buford, Wilkerson proved an enthusiastic and gifted student during her undergraduate years of liberal arts education at the University of Redlands in California. She received her bachelor’s degree in history, with honors, in 1959—soon thereafter Lorraine Hansbery’s A Raisin in the Sun became the ...