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Avery Franklin Brooks (born October 2, 1948) is an American actor, jazz musician, opera singer and college professor. Brooks is perhaps best known for his television roles as Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk.

Early life

Brooks was born in Evansville, Indiana, the son of Eva Lydia (née Crawford), a chorale conductor and music instructor, and Samuel Brooks, a union official and tool and die worker.[1] His maternal grandfather, Samuel Travis Crawford, was also a singer.[1] At age eight, his family later moved to Gary, Indiana when Samuel Brooks was laid off from International Harvester. Of Gary, Brooks has said "I was born in Evansville... but it was Gary, Indiana that made me." The Brooks household was filled with music. His mother, who was among the first African-American women to earn a master's degree in music at Northwestern University, taught music wherever the family lived.[2] His father was in the choir Wings Over Jordan on CBS radio from 1937 to 1947 and his maternal uncle Samuel Travis Crawford was a member of the Delta Rhythm Boys. "Music is all around me and in me, as I am in it", Brooks has said.[2]

Brooks attended Indiana University and Oberlin College and later received a B.A. and M.F.A. from Rutgers University in 1976, becoming the first African-American to receive an MFA in acting and directing from Rutgers.[3]

Television career

Spenser For Hire: Hawk

In 1985, Brooks landed the role of Hawk on the ABC television detective series Spenser: For Hire. Hawk became a popular character and, after four seasons, Brooks in 1989 received his own, short-lived spinoff series, A Man Called Hawk.

Brooks said of his role as Hawk: "I never thought of myself as the sidekick... I've never been the side of anything. I just assumed that I was equal".

Brooks returned to play Hawk in four Spenser television movies: Spenser: Ceremony, Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes, Spenser: The Judas Goat and Spenser: A Savage Place.

Star Trek: Benjamin Sisko

Brooks is best known in popular culture for his role as Commander - and later - Captain Benjamin Sisko on the science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which ran for seven seasons from 1993 to 1999.

Brooks won the right to play Commander Benjamin Sisko by beating 100 other actors from all racial backgrounds to become the first African-American captain to lead a Star Trek series. What appealed to Brooks about the role was the opportunity to give hope to young people. "Today, many of our children, especially black males, do not project that they will live past the age of 19 or 20,"[citation needed] he told Michael Logan of TV Guide. "Star Trek allows our children the chance to see something they might never otherwise imagine".

Brooks is also one of six actors (the other actors being Jonathan Frakes, Kate Mulgrew, George Takei, Michael Dorn and Majel Barrett) to lend his voice to Star Trek: Captain's Chair, reprising his role of Captain Benjamin Sisko when users visit the U.S.S Defiant bridge in Star Trek: Captain's Chair.

He directed nine episodes of the series, including "Far Beyond the Stars", an episode focusing on racial injustice.

Series producer Ronald D. Moore said of Brooks: "Avery, like his character (Sisko), is a very complex man. He is not a demanding or ego-driven actor, rather he is a thoughtful and intelligent man who sometimes has insights into the character that no one else has thought about. He has also been unfailingly polite and a classy guy in all my dealings with him."[4]

Other roles

In 1984, he received critical praise for his role in PBS's American Playhouse production of Half Slave, Half Free: Solomon Northrup's Odyssey, directed by Gordon Parks. The story chronicled the life of a free man, played by Brooks, kidnapped into slavery during the 1840s.

The role of Uncle Tom in the 1986 Showtime production of Uncle Tom's Cabin was another project that allowed Brooks to highlight the history of his people, as did his appearance in the 1988 television movie Roots: The Gift.

He has also appeared in the 1985 television movie adaptation of Finnegan Begin Again and the 1998 motion picture American History X. He also played the role of Paris in the 1998 film The Big Hit.

In animation, he supplied the voice of King Maximus in Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child as well as Nokkar in an episode of Disney's Gargoyles.

In 2001, he was the voice-over and appeared in a series of IBM commercials for its Software business unit asking provocative questions about a company's readiness to embrace the e-business revolution.[5]

Other work

Teaching and cultural work

Brooks has been a tenured professor of theatre at the Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University for more than three decades. He has also taught at Oberlin College and Case Western Reserve University.

From 1993 to 1996, Brooks was Artistic Director for the National Black Arts Festival in association with Rutgers University. Held biannually since 1988 in Atlanta, Georgia, the internationally renowned festival celebrates African-American culture and people of African descent. He was also inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1993. In addition, Brooks has done extensive work with the Smithsonian Institution's Program in Black American Culture.


A deep baritone singer, Brooks has performed on stage with Butch Morris, Lester Bowie, and Jon Hendricks. He also recorded an album with saxophone player James Spaulding as a tribute to Duke Ellington. Brooks had the lead role in the 1985 Anthony Davis opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. Also, he performed at the Paris Banlieues Bleues Festival in 2005.


Brooks received critical acclaim in Phillip Hayes Dean's play Paul Robeson. Brooks paid tribute to his culture by portraying the life of the famous singer, actor, and civil rights activist in a one-man, critically-acclaimed biographical drama. He has performed the role since 1982 at the Westwood Playhouse in Los Angeles, and also at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Longacre Theater on Broadway. He also portrayed Robeson in "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?," both on and off-Broadway.

Brooks' early theater credits include The Offering, A PHOTOGRAPH: A Study of Cruelty, and Are You Now or Have You Ever Been in the 1970s. He first started to gain recognition after his appearance in Spell #7 at the Public/Anspache Theater in New York City in 1979. He subsequently starred in Othello at the Folger Shakespeare Festival (1985) and Fences at the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Missouri (1990). He reprised the role of Othello at the Washington Shakespeare Theater in 1990-1991.

Brooks appeared in the title role of The Oedipus Plays, a production that traveled to the 2003 Athens Festival in Greece. He also appeared in the title role of King Lear at Yale's Repertory Theatre. In 2005, Brooks again starred as Othello, this time at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in a production directed by the renowned Michael Kahn. Brooks was one of 15 Shakespeare Theatre Company company actors in Washington to be honored with the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre in 2007.[6] He returned to the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Fall 2007 to play the title role in Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine.

In 2008, Brooks returned to Oberlin College to play the lead in a mixed-race production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.[7]


Brooks played Dr. Bob Sweeney in American History X.

Documentary work

Brooks has also hosted several documentaries and served as narrator in such features as the IMAX film Africa's Elephant Kingdom. His other documentary credits include narrating A Passion for Faith (the history of black Catholics in America), Eyes on the Prize (dedicated to legendary singer Marian Anderson), Walking with Dinosaurs, Jesus: The Complete Story, Land of the Mammoth: Ancient Evidence, The Ballad of Big Al, The Science of Big Al, Engineering the Impossible (The Colosseum), Greatest Places and Echoes from the White House,'God vs. Satan' and "Jewels of the Rift" (about the life cycles of African cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika).

In May 2007, Brooks recorded the narration for the documentary The Better Hour, which is about the life of William Wilberforce, the man who led the campaign for the end of slavery in the United Kingdom in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.[8]

Brooks also provided the narration for the Discovery Channel series, Walking With Dinosaurs (Canada). His deep and authoritative voice commanded viewer attention; Brooks was able to draw on his years of training as an opera singer and his extensive stage experience with Shakespeare company actors to not only engage the viewer, but use his vocal abilities to emphasize the events as seen in the show.

In 2009, Brooks narrated a special documentary for the National Geographic channel titled, Drain the Ocean. Using CGI animation, National Geographic removed the water from the oceans and explored the ocean floor and its vast geography.

Latest projects


Avery Brooks, 2009

Brooks was part of a directors panel at a festival celebrating the work of Ntozake Shange at the New Federal Theatre on February 11, 2007. Brooks has directed Shange's Boogie Woogie Landscapes at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and in London's West End.[9]

In 2006, Trekweb and TrekToday announced that Avery Brooks would take a role in the upcoming film John Rambo. Brooks himself later said this was not the case. He said "I've met Mr. Stallone, many years ago — I have great respect for Mr. Stallone, always did. However, Rambo is not in my future".[10]

In March 2007, it was confirmed that Brooks would appear in a new production of Christopher Marlowe's play Tamburlaine.[11]

As part of BBC Audiobooks America's entry into the US market, Brooks narrated an audiobook of Alex Haley's novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. It is the first time the novel has received an audio adaptation. Brooks himself had starred in the 1988 television film based on the book, Roots: The Gift.[12]

Brooks has also completed work on his long-awaited CD. It contains "a selection of ballads and love songs... I speak of my respect for my father, and for artists that I have listened to all my life."[13]

In August 2008, it was announced that Brooks will play Willie Loman in a new production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.[14]

Brooks also periodically attends Star Trek conventions around the world.

Personal life

Since 1976, Brooks has been married to Vicki Lenora, an assistant dean at Rutgers University where she has worked for more than 30 years. The couple have three children: Ayana, Cabral, and Asante.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Avery Brooks Biography (1948-)". Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Avery Brooks: not just another pretty face Essence - Find Articles". 2006-07-16. Archived from the original on 2006-07-16. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  3. "Mason Gross School of the Arts - Rutgers in New York". Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  4. "Ron_Moore_3_19_97". Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  5. “”. "Avery Brooks on Flying Cars". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  6. "SHAKSPER 2007: Will Awards". Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  7. [1][dead link]
  8. "Directing Avery Brooks in New York | Phil Cooke The Change Revolution". 2007-05-02. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  9. "New Federal's Shange Festival Kicks Off Feb. 7". Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  10. "STARTREK.COM : Article". Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  11. Scott, Brian (2007-03-05). "Auberjonois, Brooks, Page Set for Shakespeare Theatre Season: Theater News on - 03/05/2007". Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  12. "BBC Audiobooks America Launches Trade List". 2007-04-11. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  13. Christian Höhne Sparborth. "The Trek BBS: Brooks On Star Trek, Rutgers, 'Roots' & Robeson". Archived from the original on 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  14. "Avery Brooks to Play Willy Loman in New Interpretation of Death of a Salesman". Retrieved 2010-08-03. 

External links

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