"I decided I was not going to stand on the
sidelines. And I wanted to be part of the solution,
and not part of the problem."
Sign up for the Legacy Forward team to help us celebrate Jackie Taylor,
the #LegacyLeaders, and theatres of color!
Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater
Jackie Taylor was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in the Cabrini Green housing project. She rose from modest roots to become a distinguished director, producer, actress, singer, playwright and theater founder. As the Founder of the 40 year old Black Ensemble Theater (BE), she has created a strong institution committed to eradicating racism. BE is recognized throughout the nation for its outstanding original productions and exceptional educational outreach programs.
Jackie Taylor has written and produced more than 100 plays and musical biographies, including The Marvin Gaye Story, The Jackie Wilson Story, The Black White Love Play (The Story of Chaz and Roger Ebert) All In Love Is Fair, The Other Cinderella, I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass), Don’t Make Me Over (The Story of Dionne Warwick), Don’t Shed A Tear (The Billie Holiday Story), Somebody Say Amen, At Last: A Tribute To Etta James, Precious Lord Take My Hand; among a myriad of other acclaimed productions.
A phenomenal actress and performer in her own right, Taylor has had featured roles in several major films, including Chiraq, Cooley High, Hoodlum, Barbershop 2, The Father Clements Story, Losing Isiah and To Sir With Love: Part 2. Ms. Taylor also has numerous television and theater credits to her name. She has worked with such greats as Spike Lee, Sidney Poitier, Laurence Fishburne, Vanessa Williams, Bill Dukes, Glynn Thurman and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs just to name a few.
Jackie Taylor has a BA in theater, a Master’s degree in Education and received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from DePaul University. An outstanding teacher, Jackie has worked for the Chicago Board of Education, the Illinois Arts Council and Urban Gateways. Through the years, Ms. Taylor has taught every grade level from Kindergarten through major universities.
Taylor serves as the president of the African American Arts Alliance and is on the board of the Betty Shabazz International Schools. The City of Chicago honored her by naming a street after her, Jackie Taylor Street. Jackie was recently honored by the city of Chicago at the 2016 Fifth Star Awards. Taylor has received numerous awards for her work. She has been named one of the top 50 Performers by New City 2015 publication. She was named a Chicago Defender 2013 Women of Excellence Honoree and was included in New City Stage Magazine’s 2013 List of the 50 People Who Really Perform in Chicago. In 2012, Jackie was honored by Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine as one of 100 women to watch and a Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine. The past Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, declared March 27, 2009 Jackie Taylor day in Illinois. Other honors include a Special Jeff Award for her cultural contributions, a League of Chicago Theater Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the Top 10 in the Arts in the Chicago Sun-Times’ 100 Most Powerful Women; “Producer of the Year” by the National Black Theater Festival and a “Phenomenal Women Award” by Expo for Today’s Black Women. Nationally, she and her work have been featured in Jet, Variety, the New York Times, The Washington Post and Essence.
On September 10, 2010, Ms. Taylor broke ground on the new 20 million dollar Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center which opened on November 18, 2011. Her most prized accomplishments are being the mother of daughter, Tynea Wright and an outstanding Grammy to her grandson Tayden McGowan!