A Southern Life: Letters of Paul Green, 1916-1981


This exceptional collection provides new insight into the life and works of North Carolina writer and activist Paul Green (1894-1981), the first playwright from the South to attract national and international attention for his socially conscious dramas. A native of Harnett County, Green was a devoted teacher of philosophy and drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He became a leading member of the generation of writers who launched the southern literary renaissance and played a significant role in creating an authentic drama of black life, winning the Pulitzer Prize for his play In Abraham's Bosom in 1927. From the 1930s until his death in 1981, he devoted much of his energy to the outdoor historical plays he called symphonic dramas, including his longest-running work, The Lost Colony (1937), which is one of several of his plays still performed before large audiences today. Concern for human rights characterized Green's life as well as his plays, and his efforts on behalf of the poor and uneducated led him to advocate the abolition of chain gangs and capital punishment. His crusades were an important contribution to the broader social developments fundamental to the emerging New South in the first half of this century. Laurence Avery has culled and annotated the 329 letters in this volume from over 9,000 existing pieces. Letters to such figures as Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, John Dos Passos, and Zora Neale Hurston appear throughout. Avery's introduction and full bibliography of the playwright's works and productions give readers a context for understanding Green's life and times. Carl Sandburg called Green "one of the best talkers in theU.S.A". and for Green, letters were just another form of conversation. They are alive with the intellect, buoyant spirit, and sensitivity to the human condition that enabled him to become such a powerful force in his day.

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