This week, I selected a quote by Shirley Graham Du Bois.
While still a student at Oberlin College, DuBois wrote and produced a three act opera, “Tom-Toms: An Epic of Music and the Negro.” Featuring an all black cast, it opened at the Cleveland Stadium in 1932. The first performance drew ten thousand and the second fifteen thousand including the Governor of Ohio. DuBois is the first African-American woman to write and produce an opera with an all-black cast.
According to the Oxford Companion to African-American Literature, DuBois other “theater works included:
- Deep Rivers (1939), a musical;
- It’s Morning (1940), a one-act tragedy
- I Gotta Home (1940), a one-act drama
- Track Thirteen (1940), a comedy for radio and her only published play;
- Elijah Raven (1941), a three-act comedy; and
- Dust to Earth (1941), a three-act tragedy.”
Because of the obstacles she faced, as an African-American female, in getting her musicals and plays produced and published, DuBois transitioned to literature.
From 1944 until her death in 1977, she wrote biographical books targeted to reach young African-American elementary school readers. She felt elementary schools lacked access to quality educational resources about African-American and African heroes.
On a personal note, in the late 1940’s and 50’s, my elementary school library as well as the neighborhood public library had books written by DuBois (aka Graham) on:
- Dr. George Washington Carver
- Benjamin Banneker
- Paul Robeson
- Booker T. Washington
- Jean Baptiste Pointe duSable
However, the classroom text books, as I recall, had only 1-2 pages about two African-Americans — Dr. George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. So, I am very appreciative of the books written by DuBois; and, I regret that the Chicago Public School system did not, apparently, feel it was necessary to include African-American history and literature into the curriculum during the 1940s and 1950s. Hopefully, this is no longer the case.
In addition to her biographical books, DuBois wrote and published two novels:
- There Once Was a Slave (1947)
- Zulu Heart (1974)
In 1951, she married writer and Civil Rights Leader, W.E.B. DuBois. Shirley Graham DuBois died of breast cancer on March 27, 1977.
In this season of life, I seek to open up my space to the “new and different”; and participating weekly in Writer’s Quote, 2015 is, indeed, a “new and different” experience for me. Thank you, Silver Threading, for hosting this event.