Teaching Students About Paul Winfield

Paul Winfield was a renowned American actor and educator, whose career spanned several decades. He is best known for his roles in the films “Sounder,” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” and the television miniseries “King”. His distinguished acting career earned him numerous awards and nominations, making him a key figure in Hollywood history. As educators, presenting Paul Winfield’s work to students can provide valuable insights into not only the world of acting but also into broader topics such as diversity and the pursuit of excellence.

Lesson 1: The Early Life and Career of Paul Winfield

Begin by discussing Winfield’s early life, touching on his upbringing in Los Angeles and his studies at multiple universities, including the University of Portland, Stanford University, and Los Angeles City College. Highlight how he developed a passion for acting from an early age and decided to pursue a professional career after realizing his abilities.

Discuss his first notable roles on stage in plays like “A Raisin in the Sun” (1960) and go into detail about how these performances led to opportunities in film and television. Make sure to emphasize key milestones such as his Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for “Sounder” (1972) and his Emmy Award-winning portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “King” (1978).

Lesson 2: Examining Winfield’s Acting Style

Delve into some of Paul Winfield’s most memorable performances by showing clips from films like “Sounder” or “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”. Discuss with students what makes Winfield such an impactful actor; focusing on aspects like emotional range, amicability, believability, as well as diversity in the characters he portrayed. Have students analyze specific scenes from these movies that exemplify these traits.

Lesson 3: Achievements and Recognitions

Discuss Paul Winfield’s significant achievements throughout his career, such as his Emmy Awards, Academy Award nomination, and lifetime achievement honors. Also, consider discussing how he broke barriers as an African-American actor in Hollywood at a time when opportunities for minority actors were limited.

Lesson 4: The Lasting Impact of Paul Winfield

Introduce students to the significance of Winfield’s career not just as a talented actor but also as an educator. Talk about his work teaching at the University of Southern California’s School of Theatre and his passionate belief in the power of education.

Wrap up the lessons by discussing how Paul Winfield’s influence transcends acting and echoes throughout Hollywood today – in paving a way for minority actors and actresses, challenging societal norms, and inspiring generations to pursue careers in the arts.


Teaching students about Paul Winfield offers an opportunity to explore an extraordinary individual whose accomplishments in acting reached far beyond the silver screen. By sharing his story, educators can encourage students to learn more about diversity, educational values, and the power of persistence in overcoming obstacles. This multifaceted approach will equip students with a greater understanding of not just a remarkable actor but also a truly influential figure in the world of arts and education.

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