It's Mornin' ( 1940)
Shirley Lola Graham was born on November 11, 1896, on a farm near Evansville, Indiana, to Reverend David Andrew and Etta Bell Graham. Along with four brothers, Shirley Graham grew up in parsonages across the country. It was her father, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, who became a major influence on her life, particularly because he instilled in her a drive to explore the lives of black heroes and a desire to study African culture and music.
After graduating from Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Washington, Graham entered a trade school where she became a certified typist and office clerk. Towards the end of World War I, she moved to Seattle where she worked at the Navy Yard until she married Shadrach T. McCanns in 1921. Two sons were born, Robert and David, before the marriage was dissolved in the mid-twenties.
In 1926, when Shirley Graham's father was appointed administrator of a mission college in Monrovia, Liberia, she and her sons moved to Paris where she studied music at the Sorbonne. Beginning in the late 1920s through 1931, Graham studied and served as a music librarian at Howard University and later headed the music department of Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland. Graham earned a B.A. and an M.A. in music from Oberlin College in 1934 and 1935, respectively. After leaving Oberlin College, she served as chair of the department of fine arts at Tennessee A. & I. State College in Nashville.
Wishing to develop further expertise in theater, Graham accepted the position of director at the Chicago unit of the Federal Theater Project (FTP) in 1936, and underwent intensive study of the technical aspects of theater, including acting, directing, dance, and working on full-scale productions at Vassar College. Between 1936 and 1938 Graham wrote, designed, and