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Ed Bullins (1935–2021), playwright of the Black Arts Movement

by Linnea Crowther

Ed Bullins was a playwright known for works including “The Taking of Miss Janie” and “In New England Winter.”

Dramatizing the experiences of Black people

Bullins began writing plays after being inspired by a performance of Amiri Baraka’s (1934–2014) 1964 play, “The Dutchman.” Like Baraka, Bullins became associated with the Black Arts Movement, which represented Black voices in the 1960s and ‘70s. Bullins became chief artist in residence at Black House, a San Francisco arts and community center founded by Eldridge Cleaver (1935–1998). He was also associated with the Black Panthers, serving as their minister of culture for a short period in the ‘60s. Bullins’ work was widely honored; he won an Obie Award and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award for his 1975 play “The Taking of Miss Janie,” as well as winning a variety of other awards, grants, and fellowships. His other plays included “In the Wine Time,” “The Fabulous Miss Marie,” and “Boy x Man.” In his plays, Bullins sought to depict the experiences of Black people for a Black audience; he was unconcerned with crossing over to a white audience. In later years, he was a professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

Notable quote

“I have no Messianic urge. Every other street corner has somebody telling you Christ or Mao is the answer. You can take any Ism you want and be saved by it. If you’re part of some movement and it fulfills you, that’s cool, but I like to look at it all.” —from a 1975 interview for the New York Times

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Tributes to Ed Bullins

Full obituary: The New York Times

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