Avery Brooks is an American entertainer who is involved in acting, singing and film direction. He was born in Evansville, Indiana on October 2, 1948 to Eva Lydia and Samuel Brooks. His mother was a music conductor and instructor and his father was a machine operator. He belonged to a musical family, as his maternal grandfather, Samuel Travis Crawford, had also been a singer and his mother was one of the first African American women to earn a Masters degree in music from Northwestern University. His father was in a choir and also performed on the radio. His uncle Samuel Travis Crawford was also a member of a band named the Delta Rhythm Boys. Brooks studied at Indiana University and Oberlin College. In 1976, he received an M.F.A. in acting and directing from Rutgers University, making him the first Rutgers’ African American M.F.A. graduate in this field.
His first venture into acting was in 1985 for the ABC television series “Spenser: For Hire”. It was a detective series in which he played the role of Hawk. The character was so popular that Avery Brooks received his own spinoff show called “A Man Called Hawk”. He also acted in four television movies where he reprised his role as Hawk, called “Spenser: Ceremony”, “Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes”, “Spenser: The Judas Goat” and “Spenser: A Savage Place”. His most popular role was that of Captain Benjamin Sisko in the television series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. He played this role for seven seasons from 1993 to 1999. Brooks was selected from amongst a hundred other actors auditioning for the same role to become the first African American actor to play a lead role in a Star Trek series. He also directed 9 episodes of the Star Trek, including one on racial injustice. He saw his role as a good platform to project a positive image about African Americans and be a good role model for youngsters.
In 1984, he was cast as Solomon Northup in a television film called “Half Slave, Half Free: Solomon Northup’s Odyssey”. It was directed by Gordon Parks and produced by American Playhouse. It was the story of a free man who was kidnapped from New York and sold into slavery. Brooks received great reviews for this role and it cast him into the limelight. In 1985, he appeared in the movie “Finnegan Begin Again” and in 1987 he played the role of Uncle Tom in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, followed by the 1988 television movie “Roots: The Gift”. He also voiced some characters in animated movies, such as “Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child” and “Gargoyles” by Disney.
Avery Brooks also taught at Oberlin College and Case Western Reserve University. In the field of music, he has performed with several artists including Butch Morris, Lester Bowie, Jon Hendricks and James Spaulding. His work in theatre includes the play Paul Robeson, The Oedipus Plays, Othello, Tamburlaine and Death of a Salesman. He has appeared in and narrated several documentaries including Africa’s Elephant Kingdom, A Passion for Faith, Eyes on the Prize, Walking with Dinosaurs, The Ballad of Big Al, Savage Sun, Engineering the Impossible (The Colosseum) and The Better Hour. He is married to Vicki Lenora Brooks, who is the Assistant Dean at Rutgers University. The couple has three children and live in Princeton, New Jersey.