Shirley Graham Du Bois: Brief Life Story
Posted on: May 4, 2021
Scene from the original production of Shirley Graham Du Bois’s I Gotta Home produced in 1940 by the Gilpin Players at Eldred Hall Theatre. Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University. Rights held by Odell Murry, Trustee, Du Bois Trust.
Shirley Graham Du Bois wrote I Gotta Home in 1939 while she was studying at Yale University. From 1936-1938, Graham Du Bois led the Chicago Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre Project to great acclaim, in recognition of which Yale awarded her the Rosenwald Fellowship in creative writing. During this fellowship, Graham Du Bois wrote three stage plays—Dust to Earth, I Gotta Home, and It’s Morning—as well as a radio play entitled Track Thirteen. I Gotta Home was inspired by Graham Du Bois’s childhood as the daughter of a minister who moved his family from church to church across the country.
The play premiered in 1940 in a production by the Gilpin Players at Eldred Hall at Western Reserve University, now part of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The Gilpin Players typically performed at Karamu Theater, but the building burnt down in 1939 and wasn’t rebuilt for another ten years; Eldred Hall was one of multiple locations that housed the company during their itinerant period. A review of this production by Cleveland News proclaimed, “[The Gilpin Players] filled out the play’s pleasant mixture of lively sentiment, shrewd viewing of human frailty and amiable humor with...finesse,” and “We recommend it to all in search of an amiable evening.”
I Gotta Home was published in a 1990 anthology titled Black Female Playwrights: An Anthology of Plays before 1950, edited by Kathy A. Perkins, with permission from Graham Du Bois’s son David G. Du Bois. ♦
Read more: Timeline of Black American Theatre
Read more: Literary Ancestry Essay Series
Read more: Recommended Plays and Further Reading
|“Karamu House.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University.
Perkins, Kathy A., editor. Black Female Playwrights: An Anthology of Plays before 1950. Indiana University Press, 1990.
“The Play.” Review of I Gotta Home by Shirley Graham Du Bois. The Cleveland News, 22 Feb. 1940.
Pullen, Glenn C. “Gilpiners Lift Up New Negro Play.” Review of I Gotta Home by Shirley Graham Du Bois. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 22 Feb. 1940.