Avery Brooks is an American actor and singer best known for his television roles as Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), and as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire (1985-1988) and its spin-off, A Man Called Hawk (1989).
Brooks was born in Evansville, Indiana to Samuel Leon (a tool and die maker and singer) and Eva Lydia Crawford (a pianist, organist, and choir director).
At age eight, his family later moved to Gary, Indiana when Samuel Brooks was laid off from International Harvester.
The Brooks household was filled with music. His mother, who was among the first African-American women to earn a master's degree in music at Northwestern University, taught music wherever the family lived.
His father was in the choir Wings Over Jordan on CBS radio from 1937 to 1947 and his maternal uncle Samuel Travis Crawford, was a member of the Delta Rhythm Boys.
Brooks attended Indiana University and Oberlin College and later received a B.A. and M.F.A. from Rutgers University in 1976, becoming the first African-American to receive an MFA in acting and directing from Rutgers.
Brooks has been a tenured professor of theatre at the Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University for more than three decades. He has also taught at Oberlin College and Case Western Reserve University.
From 1993 to 1996, Brooks was Artistic Director for the National Black Arts Festival in association with Rutgers University. Held biannually since 1988 in Atlanta, Georgia, the internationally renowned festival celebrates African-American culture and people of African descent.
He was also inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1993. In addition, Brooks has done extensive work with the Smithsonian Institute's Program in Black American Culture.
A deep baritone singer, Brooks has performed on stage with Butch Morris, Lester Bowie, and Jon Hendricks. He also recorded an album with saxophone player James Spaulding as a tribute to Duke Ellington.
Brooks had the lead role in the 1985 Anthony Davis opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. More recently, he performed at the Paris Banlieues Bleues Festival in 2005.
Brooks received critical acclaim in Phillip Hayes Dean play Paul Robeson. Brooks paid tribute to his culture by portraying the life of the famous singer, actor, and civil rights activist in a one-man, critically-acclaimed biographical drama.
He has performed the role since 1982 at the Westwood Playhouse in Los Angeles, and also at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Longacre Theater on Broadway.
He also portrayed Robeson in Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?, both on and off-Broadway.
Brooks' early theater credits include The Offering, A PHOTOGRAPH: A Study of Cruelty, and Are You Now or Have You Ever Been in the 1970s.
He first started to gain recognition after his appearance in Spell #7 at the Public/Anspache Theater in New York City in 1979. He subsequently starred in Othello at the Folger Shakespeare Festival (1985) and Fences at the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, MO (1990).
More recently, Brooks appeared in the title role of The Oedipus Plays, a production that traveled to the 2003 Athens Festival in Greece. He also appeared in the title role of King Lear at Yale's Repertory Theatre.
In 2005, Brooks again starred as Othello, this time at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in a production directed by the renowned Michael Kahn. Brooks was one of 15 Shakespeare Theatre Company company actors in Washington to be honored with the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre in 2007.
In 1985, Brooks landed the role of Hawk on the television detective series Spenser: For Hire. Hawk became a popular character and, after four seasons, Brooks in 1989 received his own, short-lived spin-off series, A Man Called Hawk.
Brooks returned to play Hawk in four Spenser television movies: Spenser: Ceremony, Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes, Spenser: The Judas Goat and Spenser: A Savage Place.
Brooks is best known in popular culture for his role as Captain Benjamin Sisko on the science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which ran for seven seasons from 1993 to 1999.
Brooks won the right to play Commander Benjamin Sisko by beating 100 other actors from all racial backgrounds to become the first African-American captain to lead a Star Trek series.
He directed nine episodes of the series, including "Far Beyond the Stars", an episode focusing on racial injustice.
Brooks was able to use his work as an actor to highlight and honour his African-American heritage. In 1984, he received critical praise for his role in PBS's American Playhouse production of Half Slave, Half Free: Solomon Northrup's Odyssey. The story chronicled the life of a free man, played by Brooks, kidnapped into slavery during the 1840s.
The role of Uncle Tom in the 1986 Showtime production of Uncle Tom's Cabin was another project that allowed Brooks to highlight the history of his people, as did his appearance in the 1988 television movie Roots: The Gift.
He has also appeared in the 1985 television movie adaptation of Finnegan Begin Again and the 1998 motion picture American History X.
In 2001, he was the voice-over spokesman for a series of IBM commercials comparing the depicted and/or predicted technology of 2001 with actual current technology.
Brooks has also hosted several documentaries and served as narrator in such features as the IMAX film Africa's Elephant Kingdom.
His other documentary credits include narrating A Passion for Faith (the history of black Catholics in America), Eyes on the Prize (dedicated to legendary singer Marian Anderson), Walking with Dinosaurs, Jesus: The Complete Story, Land of the Mammoth and Ancient Evidence, The Ballad of Big Al, The Science of Big Al, Engineering the Impossible (The Colosseum), Greatest Places and Echoes from the White House.
In May 2007, Brooks recorded the narration for the documentary The Better Hour, which is about the life of William Wilberforce, the man who led the campaign for the end of slavery in the United Kingdom in the late 18th century and early 19th centuries.
Brooks was part of a directors panel at a festival celebrating the work of Ntozake Shange at the New Federal Theatre on February 11, 2007. Brooks has directed Shange's Boogie Woogie Landscapes at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and in London's West End.
As part of BBC Audiobooks America's entry into the US market, Brooks narrated an audiobook of Alex Haley's novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. It is the first time the novel has received an audio adaptation.
Brooks also periodically attends Star Trek conventions around the world.
Since 1976 Brooks has been married to Vicki Lenora, an assistant dean at Rutgers University where she has worked for more than 30 years. The couple have three children: Ayana, Cabral, and Asante.