Robert Hooks, founder of the NEC helped propel fellow African Americans into the spotlight during the heart of the Civil Rights Movements.
The 1960’s were a time that were rich in significance for equality in America. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, America was in the heat of civil rights movements. Everything from sit ins to civil right court cases were in full force. Among the midst of all of these movements, the Negro Ensemble Company or the NEC was formed and thrived. The NEC not only helped African Americans to make a name for themselves in theater but also helped to push the civil rights movements forward.
The NEC was founded in 1967 by actors Robert Hooks and Douglas Turner Ward and producer Gerald Krone. The NEC was first funded by a $434,000 grant awarded by the Ford Foundation. Many notable plays were performed by the NEC in the first few seasons of production and including God Is a (Guess What?) by Ray McIver and The River Niger by Joseph Walker. The NEC also helped propel several other African-American actors into the spotlight. Some of these include Moses Gunn, Denise Nicholas, David Downing and Allie Woods.
The NEC now only does one production a year and offers workshops year around. Even though their involvement in theater today is limited, the impact that they have had on the the history of theater is great. Countless African Americans were given the opportunities that were needed to advance in the field. In doing this, African American theater helped in their own way to push the civil rights movements forward.