August Wilson has been quoted as saying, "My generation of blacks knew very little about the past of our parents. They shielded us from the indignities they suffered" (source). The playwright felt that it was a mistake for African Americans to be unaware of their history. With his ten-play cycle, which includes The Piano Lesson, he documented each decade of the black experience in America during the 20th century. By creating this epic work, Wilson hoped to help teach his fellow African Americans about their past, so that they might be able move forward into a more positive future. The Piano Lesson, perhaps more than any other in the cycle, deals directly with this theme. The play seems to ask the question of how African Americans can best make use of their history.
When Berniece finally plays the piano again at the end of the play, she draws on the power of the past.
The "lesson" of The Piano Lesson is that African Americans must be aware of their past in order to build a positive future.