Charlie L. Russell

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Charlie Louis Russell, Jr. (March 10, 1932 – June 28, 2013)[1] was an American writer, best known for his play, Five on the Black Hand Side,[2] which was later made into an acclaimed motion picture.


Charlie L. Russell was born in Monroe, Louisiana, the eldest of two children of Charlie, Sr. and Katie Russell. His father moved to Oakland, California, in 1942 and became a shipyard worker; the family was reunited with the father a year later. Charlie and his younger and more famous brother, basketball legend Bill Russell, attended local Oakland schools. Charlie graduated from Oakland Technical High, his interest in writing was sparked while he was a student at Santa Rosa Junior College.

After serving in Korea with the U.S. Army, Russell earned a B.S. in English from the University of San Francisco in 1959. Graduate studies followed a few years later, and he received a Masters in Social Work in 1966 from New York University. Still active as a writer, from 1963 to 1970, Russell was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild led by John Oliver Killens.

Russell's play Five on the Black Hand Side premiered in 1969, he later adapted the play into a film, which was released by United Artists in 1973. While not a box-office hit, the film was highly praised and established a cult following, it received an NAACP Image Award for best screenplay. Ebony magazine also recognized Five on the Black Hand Side as one of the ten best African-American films of all time.

In the early 1970s, Russell served as writer in residence at Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theatre in Harlem.

Russell's other works include the novella A Birthday Present for Katheryn Kenyatta, and "Quietus," a short story published in Langston Hughes' Best Negro Short Stories.

In 1986, Russell earned his M.EA. from the University of California at San Diego.

The father of two children (Katheryn (mother of Sasha and Louis Brown) and Joshua), Russell resided in Oakland, California until his death on June 28, 2013 after a battle with gastric cancer, he was 81.


  1. ^ Mejia, Brittny (1932-03-10). "Charlie Louis Russell Jr., award-winning playwright, dies at 81". Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  2. ^ Barnes, Clive (6 January 1970). "Critic Lauds Characters In Middle-Class Comedy". Palm Beach Daily News. p. 3. Retrieved 1 May 2011.

Louis Brown