Starring: Jackée, Oprah Winfrey, Lynn Whitfield and Cicely Tyson
Rated: Not Rated Drama
Based upon the best-selling and award-winning 1982 novel, The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories by Gloria Naylor, this film is a 2-part television miniseries. The drama is centered upon the different lives of seven Black women who live in despairing conditions on Brewster Place, a dead-end street that is barricaded by a wall. Despite their backgrounds and lifestyles and the challenges of classism, racism and sexism, the commonality of Black womanhood is what binds them together.
The characters featured in The Women of Brewster Place are:
- Mattie Michael (Oprah Winfrey), an initially naïve, young, single mother from the South who has experienced the harshness of life;
- Ciel (Lynn Whitfield), the granddaughter of Miss Eva Turner (Barbara Montgomery), who was the kind landlord of Mattie, and former childhood playmate of Basil, Mattie’s son; she is in a strained marriage to Gene (William Allen Young) and they have a daughter, Serena;
- Etta Mae Johnson (Jackée Harry), a jazzy single woman who lives life loose and free to her own standards; her attitude about her life often clashes with the morals of Mattie, her great friend;
- Melanie Browne a.k.a. “Kiswana”, is an educated young woman from an affluent family in Linden Hills. She has changed her name, in attempt to be more “African”, i.e. Black-conscious and has moved to Brewster Place with her beau, Abshu (Leon) in order to assist in helping to rebuild and improve the neighborhood;
- Cora Lee (Phillis Yvonne Stickney), a single woman whose six children each have different fathers; on welfare, she loves her children but only seems to be good at rearing them when they are small; and
- Lorraine (Lonette McKee) and Theresa a.k.a. “Tee” (Paula Kelly), two lovers who have constantly moved due to Lorraine’s fear that their relationship will be discovered; Tee is the stronger of the two in that she loves herself and Lorraine and does not care what others think of her.
As various crises strike for these women, they will need all they can get from each other in order to survive and thrive on Brewster Place!
Gloria Naylor converted her novel to a screenplay that Oprah Winfrey adapted and produced. Premiering in 1989, The Women of Brewster Place mini-series also starred Moses Gunn, Oliva Cole, Larenz Tate, Mary Alice, Paul Winfield, Glenn Plummer and Cicely Tyson. Award-winning gospel legend Vanessa Bell Armstrong performed in a bit role, singing “Amazing Grace”. Celebrated vocalist Vesta Williams sang the theme song of the mini-series.
The Women of Brewster Place was well-received by critics and viewers alike. It can be seen on Black-owned stations such as TV One and BET as well as channels, like BOUNCE, whose content is oriented to an African-American audience.
Accolades for this drama include the 1990 GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding TV Mini-Series” and the 1991 NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Drama Series, Mini-Series or Television Movie”.