Shirley Graham DuBois, composer, playwright, novelist, activist


Shirley DuBois
Date: 
Mon, 1907-11-11

On this date in 1907, Shirley Graham DuBois was born. She was an African American author, playwright, composer, and activist.

She was born in Evansville, Indiana, to a minister father and homemaker mother. Her family moved around the country quite a bit when she was a child, and Shirley’s earliest memories are from New Orleans, as well as a beginning dose of (not) fairy tales but novels such as "Ben Hur" and "Quo Vadis" for children’s reading. Young Graham graduated from high school in Spokane, Washington. She married young, but her husband died within three years, leaving her with two sons.

Feeling a need for a better education to provide for her family, Graham moved to Paris in 1929 to study music composition. A year later, she returned to America teaching at Morgan College in Baltimore for two years. She received her undergraduate and master's degrees from Oberlin College in 1934 and 1935. Graham then taught music and arts at Agricultural and Industrial State College in Nashville. She also became a supervisor at the Chicago Federal Theater in 1936.

It was at this time that she wrote a number of plays, "Coal Dust," 1938, "I Gotta Home," 1939, and "Dust to Eart," 1941. She also wrote a play for radio Track Thirteen in 1940. Shirley Graham married noted African American thinker, writer, and activist W.E.B. DuBois in 1951, a man she had met as a child of 13 and admired for many years. After many world tours with her husband, Ms. Dubois became a citizen of Ghana in 1961. After her husband died in 1963, Dubois took over a number of his unfinished projects. In 1967, she was forced to leave during a military take over.

Relocating to Cairo, Egypt, where her son worked as a journalist, DuBois wrote and published for the rest of her life. Some of her works include: "His Day is Marching On," 1971, "Game! Abdul Nasser, Son of the Nile," 1974, "Julius K. Nyerere, Teacher of Africa," 1975, and a novel "The Zulu Heart." Shirley DuBois died from breast cancer in March 1977.

Reference:
Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

To be a Writer

To become a High School Teacher

Person / name: 

Du Bois, Shirley Graham