Shirley Graham DuBois, Wife of W.E.B. Du Bois

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DYK on this day in MoorStory365 that

on November 11, 1907, Shirley Graham DuBois was born. She was an Alkebulan Abya Yala 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. Young Graham graduated from high school in Spokane, Washington.

She married young, but her husband died within three years, leaving her with two sons… in a all to familiar occurrence with moor people Grahams father David Graham feared that a mob was coming to burn down his church. The community meeting he had organized to protest the killing of a young Black boy by a policeman had stirred up trouble. So Graham stood before his congregation with a loaded gun and a Bible, told the women and children to get out of harm’s way, and prepared, alongside 21 armed men, to fight.

In the end, nothing came of it, but the reverend’s young daughter, Shirley, about age 6, was marked forever by the scene and others like it in the American South at the turn of the last century. As a result, she devoted her life to fighting racism and oppression as a writer and an activist. Unlike the contributions of her second husband, famed civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, Graham Du Bois’ have largely been forgotten, but Komozi Woodard, a historian at Sarah Lawrence College, insists they were very much a “power couple” and that Graham Du Bois was Du Bois’ equal in many ways.

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. 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. 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. Ms. Dubois became a citizen of Ghana in 1961. 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.


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