Clio Logo
August Wilson and the Civil Rights Movement in Pittsburgh
Item 6 of 9
West Funeral Home was originally located here at 2216 Centre Avenue. The funeral home served the African American community and continues to do so today at its 2215 Wylie Avenue location. The West family has owned and operated this funeral home for three generations. August Wilson included the funeral home and its owner, Thomas L. West Sr., in Two Trains Running. However, Wilson’s portrayal of West was inaccurate.

  • Exterior of West Funeral Home (1957)
  • West Funeral Home’s Hearses (1950-1955)
  • Exterior of Wylie Avenue’s West Funeral Home

The Hill District’s African American community still utilizes the West Funeral Home today. In 1932, the funeral home was established by Thomas L. West Sr. It is one of the oldest African American- owned businesses in the Pittsburgh area. Due to segregation, the West Funeral Home was one of the only funeral homes that African Americans could use. August Wilson portrayed West as a greedy man in his play, Two Trains Running. However, according to an article from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, these claims by Wilson were wrong. West was believed to be a very religious and kind man. Although still in operation, the West Funeral Home is threated by a lack in clients and an increased number of funeral homes. For now, the funeral home continues to function as Thomas L. West Sr. had intended. 

Grant, Tim."African-American funeral homes face their own set of challenges." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 27, 2017. Accessed April 27, 2020.

Hamill, Sean D. "The real-life story behind August Wilson’s character in his play about 1968 violence is different-and compelling." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 2, 2018. Accessed April 27, 2020.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Teenie Harris Archives – Carnegie Museum of Art

Teenie Harris Archives – Carnegie Museum of Art

West Funeral Home, Inc.