As a playwright Mr. Branch delved into the black experience, both in the 20th century and earlier, in Off Broadway plays like “A Medal for Willie,” about the bitterness that ensues when a black World War II veteran who had been mistreated in the service is decorated posthumously; “A Wreath for Udomo,” with its theme of colonial oppression in South Africa; and “In Splendid Error,” about the tangled relationship between the abolitionists Frederick Douglass and John Brown.
He also wrote for television. In one instance he was commissioned by the actors and producers Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee to write “A Letter From Booker T,” a historical drama, for public television.
“I realized that in my father’s church were the basic elements of what was called drama,” Mr. Branch said in an interview in African American Review in 2004. (His father preached in the A.M.E. Zion Church.) “To this day, in my memory, my father remains the most awesome ‘stage’ figure I have ever seen. He didn’t call himself an actor, but let’s face it, black preachers are very effective actors.”
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