Black Ancestors : William Attaway

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  1. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    First Black Scriptwriter: TV/FILM - and More....

    William Attaway
    Date: Sun, 1911-11-19

    William Attaway was born on this date in 1911. He was an African-American novelist, essayist, short story writer, playwright, screenwriter, and song writer.....


    In 1935, Attaway helped write the Federal Writers' Project guide for the state of Illinois..... His drama “Carnival” was produced about this time.

    In 1936, Attaway published his first story "Tale of the Blackamoor." He worked odd jobs and even tried acting with his sister Ruth, who later became a successful Broadway actress. His literary career truly began under the tutelage of his sister. In 1939, while performing with the traveling production of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's “You Can't Take It With You,” he learned that his first novel “Let Me Breathe Thunder,” had been accepted for publication. With a two-year grant from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, Attaway began work on his next novel, “Blood on the Forge,” which was published in 1941. Attaway's novels were well received by critics, but did not attract much public attention.

    After "Blood on the Forge" was published, he did not write any more novels, instead, writing songs, books about music, and screenplays. In the 1950s, he began writing for radio, films, and TV. In 1957 he produced “Calypso Song Book,” a collection of songs. In 1967, he wrote “Hear America Singing,” a children's history of popular music in America. He also wrote songs for Harry Belafonte, including the famous "Day-O Banana Boat" song. He was married in the Belafone home.

    Altogether, Attaway wrote over 500 songs.

    Attaway was the first Black writer to write scripts for TV and films. He wrote for small screen programs like the Wide Wide World and the Colgate Hour. He wrote A "Hundred Years of Laughter," an hour long special on Black humor that aired in 1964. The hour-long special featured comedians Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley, and Flip Wilson in their first appearanceS on television.

    Attaway lived with his wife, Frances, and his two children, Bill and Noelle, in Barbados for 11 years. His last years were spent in California writing screenplays.

    William Attaway died of cancer in June, 1986.

    The African American Desk Reference
    Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture
    Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
    The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
    ISBN 0-471-23924-0