Avery Brooks, the formidable actor who played Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was born Oct. 2, 1948, in Evansville, Indiana, and raised in Gary, Indiana, by his parents Samuel and Eva Brooks. His mother worked as a music instructor and choral conductor, and she was among the very first African-American women to receive a Masters degree in music from Northwestern University. Brooks himself attended Indiana University and also Oberlin College, and he completed his B.A. and an M.F.A. at Rutgers University. Following in his mother’s footsteps, he earned the distinction of being the first African-American to earn a M.F.A. in acting and directing from Rutgers. Twenty years later, Brooks was inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. By that time, not only was he a tenured professor at the school, but he also had garnered worldwide respect as an actor, director and musician.
Prior to heading the cast of Deep Space Nine, Brooks received critical acclaim for his ongoing stage appearances in the one-man musical, Paul Robeson. His first major role on television, the intriguing character Hawk on the series Spenser: For Hire, led Brooks to his own spinoff series, A Man Called Hawk. He reprised his role as Hawk in several Spenser telemovies produced during breaks from DS9. In 1988, he co-starred in Roots: The Gift, a television movie that also featured past and future Trek actors LeVar Burton, Kate Mulgrew, Tim Russ and Jerry Hardin.
Smoothly alternating between stage, screen and television, Brooks played the title role in several stage productions, including Shakespeare’s Othello and the opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. He was nominated for a Cable ACE award for his portrayal of Uncle Tom in Showtime’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, starred in the PBS American Playhouse film Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, and narrated numerous documentaries, including Walking with Dinosaurs and the IMAX film Africa’s Elephant Kingdom.
In addition to starring on Deep Space Nine, Brooks lent his voice to the video games Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Harbinger and Star Trek: Legacy, and he directed nine DS9 episodes, spanning from “Tribunal” in season two to “The Dogs of War” in season seven. Most fans, however, will agree that his direction of the remarkable “Far Beyond the Stars,” not to mention his heartbreaking performance as Benny Russell, ranks as his greatest contribution to the series. Discussing his time on DS9 with the New York Times Syndicate in a 1994 interview, Brooks said, “The work is good, the writing is good and they've assembled such a substantial group of talented people in every area of the show. It's been a good experience for all of us so far. And, indeed, I certainly think you can see that on the screen."
Among Brooks’ movies, he co-starred with Ed Norton in American History X, with Mark Walberg in The Big Hit, and with Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Star Trek veterans Kelsey Grammer and Kim Cattrall, and a very young Anton Yelchin, in 15 Minutes. He, for more than a decade, served as Artistic Director of the National Black Arts Festival, held annually in Atlanta, GA. The actor returned the stage in 2004 with a production of King Lear, playing Lear, and he starred as well in 2007 mounting of Tamburlaine. Also, for many years during and after DS9, Brooks appeared at Star Trek conventions around the world, playing piano and singing at some of them, and he memorably joined William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula at a couple of Five Captains events. He also appeared in Shatner’s 2011 documentary, The Captains. Though he’s mostly avoided the limelight in recent years, in February, 2016, Brooks appeared with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts, serving as the narrator at a concert celebrating Black History Month. He read excerpts of writings by Martin Luther King Jr.