Paul Green Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Paul Eliot Green was a product of the Cape Fear River farming region of eastern North Carolina. His paternal grandfather, John Green, had owned a plantation and slaves before the Civil War, and his maternal grandfather, William Byrd, was a preacher, singing teacher, and composer of hymns. Green’s parents were William Archibald and Betty Byrd Green (William’s second wife). His father owned and operated a large farm, where, with the other Green children, Paul played, worked, and got to know the sharecroppers, black and white. This rural background provided a rich source of material for Green’s future plays.

After attending public elementary school, Green entered Buie’s Creek Academy (now Campbell College) and benefited from the teaching of the academy’s dedicated founder, James Archibald Campbell. On graduation, Green earned money to attend college by working for two years as the principal of tiny Olive Branch School and as a professional baseball player for the Lillington Cats. (He was an ambidextrous pitcher—a fact in which some critics of his plays might see a symbolic fitness.) He entered the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1916, the same year as Thomas Wolfe, but his university studies were interrupted by volunteer service (1917-1919) in the United States Army Engineers. After serving at the front during World War I and in Paris afterward, attaining the rank of second lieutenant, Green left the engineers to resume his...

(The entire section is 559 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Paul Eliot Green was a humanist, a playwright, and the first white writer to create plays about African Americans. He was also a poet, short-story author, novelist, radio and screenplay writer, lyricist, composer, essayist, and social reformer.

Born in North Carolina in 1894 to William Archibald Green and Betty Lorine Byrd Green, Paul Green farmed and read as he plowed. He saw Southern poverty, cultural deprivation, racism, superstitions, religious fanaticism, and bad health; he condemned racial discrimination and capital punishment.

At The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, young Paul underwent surgery for osteomyelitis in his right arm; during recovery, he learned to pitch with his left arm. Ambidexterity helped him later as a professional. Paul was thirteen when his mother suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. With only one shoe, he ran for the doctor, but he was too late. Green hurried for the rest of his life, to compensate.

Green bought a Stradivarius violin for $2.45 and took a correspondence course. The woods became his practice room. His love and knowledge of music helped him create symphonic dramas, lyrics, and melodies. He graduated from Buie’s Creek Academy in 1914. To save for college, he farmed, taught school, served as a principal, and pitched for the Lillington minor league baseball team. In 1916 he entered the University of North Carolina and, surprisingly, taught English to his peers. He majored in philosophy and studied drama with Frederick Koch and his famous Playmakers. The first drama that Paul ever saw produced was his own.

Green entered World War I in 1917. Fearing death, he self-published...

(The entire section is 681 words.)