Robert Hooks


On May 20th 2000, Bowie State University and the Board of Regents of the University System of the state of Maryland, made the first in its history, the granting of two simultaneous degrees of “Doctor of Humane Letters (Honoris Causa) to a father and son team of America’s Black theatre movement, Robert and Kevin Hooks. With Robert Hooks also giving the graduation address to the throng of Bowie States’ year 2000 graduating students!


This is a rare image from a performance by The Group Theatre Workshop (GTW), my very first theatre company (circa 1964) featuring 25 teenage New York artists. The show I produced and directed — “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks –toured with Joe Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, where I was starring as “Henry V” in the evenings, while GTW performed “…Cool” in the afternoons for the neighborhood youngsters. I also arranged for union salaries from Papp for all the young GTW actors. Some in the cast were: Hattie Winston, Antonio Fargas, Monti Ellison, Daphne Reid (then Daphne Maxwell), James Long, Hampton Clanton, Bostic Van Felton, Tina Nurse, Margo Chan, and other talented Workshop teens!

“In the spirit of Dale Shields and Black Theatre – African/American Voices, reflections on the Joe Papp era. Shortly after I had started my very first acting company – The Group Theatre Workshop (GTW) operating out of my own apartment in Chelsea – Joe Papp, in July 1964, cast me as the first Black actor to star, in the evenings, as Henry V at his New York Shakespeare Festival. Truly an honor in my fast-moving acting career. I had just presented the GTW publicly in our first public outing — a Monday night showcase at The Cherry Lane Theatre where I was appearing in “Dutchman.” The teens’ kinetic performance of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” had enjoyed great word-of-mouth, even a rave review in the NY Post, and given that Joe had nothing scheduled for the afternoons I convinced him to consider creating a daytime slot for their performance as a way of encouraging a youthful audience for the evenings’ Shakespeare while giving these talented artists (including Hattie Winston Wheeler, Antonio Fargas, Daphne Reid) their first professional gigs AND THEIR FIRST PRO PAYCHECKS!”


Kevin Hooks holding Sardi’s characterization of his dad. Sardi’s (New York City). 

Don Bevin


1966 – Theatre World Award (1965–66 ) for “Where’s Daddy?” (The Billy Rose Theatre)

1979 – American Black Achievement Award – Ebony Magazine

1982 – Emmy Award for Producing (1982) Voices of Our People: In Celebration of Black Poetry (KCET-TV/PBS)

1966 – Tony Nomination, Lead Role in a Musical for Hallelujah, Baby

1985 – Inducted into The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, recipient Oscar Micheaux Award (1985) 

1986 – March 2nd declared Robert Hooks Day by the City of Los Angeles, Mayor Tom Bradley

1987 – Excellence in Advertising and Communications to Black Communities from CEBA (Excellence in Advertising and Communications to Black Communities)

2000 – Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa honorary degree, Bowie State University

2000 – May 25th declared Robert Hooks Day in Washington, D.C. 

2005 – Beverly Hills/Hollywood Chapter NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement

2005 – Beverly Hills/Hollywood Chapter NAACP Trailblazer Award to the Negro Ensemble Company

2005 – Trailblazer Award – City of Los Angeles

2006 – The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (TBAAL), Lifetime Achievement Award (Dallas)

2007 – The Black Theatre Alliance Awards / Lifetime Achievement Award

2015 – Living Legend Award (2015) National Black Theatre Festival 

2018 – October 18th proclaimed Robert Hooks Day by Mayor Muriel Bowser, Washington, D.C.

2018 – Hooks is entered into The Congressional Record by the Hon. Eleanor Holmes Norton, September 4, 2018, Vol. 164 

2018 – Visionary Founder and Creator Award – D.C. Black Repertory Company on its 47th Anniversary 


“The Negro Ensemble Company, which he co-founded in the mid-’60s, was cranking out brilliantly trained black actors, writers, producers, dancers, designers, and other technicians destined for careers in the larger entertainment world. We had never seen this kind of Black arts movement since the Harlem Renaissance, and Robert’s imprint was all over it.”
– Quincy Jones – 

“Without his brilliant vision, commitment and connections, his producing skills, his celebrity there would have been no NEC, no Denise Nicholas, no Lonne Elder, no Rosalind Cash or Douglas Turner Ward, no Michael Schultz…no Denzel Washington. We owe that and more to Robert Hooks.”                                                                                                             -Denise Nicholas-

“Robert Hooks, Sr. was at the center of the contemporary Black Theatre movement. He, with close friends, drew the circle which became the Center. A fine actor, he was able to set aside his own thirst to be on the stage, to allow younger and less acclaimed actors chances to step upon the boards and unveil their talents to the world.”                         -Maya Angelou- 

“In recounting Robert Hooks’ past accomplishments, it becomes clear that he should be actively treasured as a resource today. Everything Robert Hooks has to say is about our engagement with culture for our autonomy and survival as theater artists and as a people.”
-Herbert Allen-                                                                                                                                                                                                       Chicago-based playwright & TV producer  



“Emory University of Atlanta now have the many, many boxes, and electronic file materials of my entire professional life and career to place in their University archives. I’m thrilled my complete and extensive materials will be held, displayed, and studied at such a prestigious institution of higher learning.”


Filming at WACO Theater Center. 2023



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