Authors: Paul Green

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright, short-story writer, and screenwriter

Author Works


Surrender to the Enemy, pr. 1917

The Last of the Lowries, pr. 1920

The Long Night, pb. 1920

Granny Boling, pb. 1921 (revised as The Prayer Meeting, pb. 1924)

The Old Man of Edenton, pr. 1921

Old Wash Lucas (The Miser), pr. 1921

The Lord’s Will, pr., pb. 1922

Blackbeard, pr. 1922 (with Elizabeth Lay Green)

White Dresses, pb. 1922 (one act)

Sam Tucker, pb. 1923 (revised as Your Fiery Furnace, pb. 1926)

Wrack P’int, pr. 1923

Fixin’s, pr. 1924 (with Erma Green)

The Hot Iron, pb. 1924 (revised as Lay This Body Down, pb. 1959)

In Aunt Mahaly’s Cabin: A Negro Melodrama, pb. 1924

The No ’Count Boy, pr., pb. 1924

The Lord’s Will, and Other Carolina Plays, pb. 1925

The Man Who Died at Twelve O’Clock, pr. 1925

Quare Medicine, pr. 1925

The End of the Row, pb. 1926

In Abraham’s Bosom, pr., pb. 1926 (one-act version), pr. 1926 (full-length version)

Lonesome Road: Six Plays for the Negro Theatre, pb. 1926

The Man on the House, pb. 1926

Supper for the Dead, pb. 1926

The Field God, pr., pb. 1927

Unto Such Glory, pb. 1927

Blue Thunder: Or, The Man Who Married a Snake, pb. 1928

Bread and Butter Come to Supper, pb. 1928 (as Chair Endowed)

The Goodbye, pb. 1928

In the Valley, and Other Carolina Plays, pb. 1928

Old Christmas, pb. 1928

The Picnic, pb. 1928

Saturday Night, pb. 1928

Tread the Green Grass, pb. 1929 (music by Lamar Stringfield)

The House of Connelly, pr., pb. 1931

Potter’s Field, pb. 1931 (revised as Roll Sweet Chariot, pr. 1934; symphonic drama; music by Dolphe Martin)

Shroud My Body Down, pr. 1934 (revised as The Honeycomb, pb. 1972)

The Enchanted Maze, pr. 1935

Hymn to the Rising Sun, pr., pb. 1936 (one act)

Johnny Johnson: The Biography of a Common Man, pr. 1936 (music by Kurt Weill)

The Southern Cross, pr. 1936

The Lost Colony, pr., pb. 1937 (symphonic drama)

Alma Mater, pb. 1938

The Critical Year, pb. 1939

Franklin and the King, pb. 1939

The Highland Call, pr. 1939 (symphonic drama)

Out of the South: The Life of a People in Dramatic Form, pb. 1939

Native Son, pr., pb. 1941 (with Richard Wright; adaptation of Wright’s novel)

The Common Glory, pr. 1947 (symphonic drama)

Faith of Our Fathers, pr. 1950

Peer Gynt, pr., pb. 1951 (adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play)

Serenata, pr. 1953 (with Josefina Niggli)

The Seventeenth Star, pr. 1953 (symphonic drama)

Carmen, pr. 1954 (adaptation of the libretto of Georges Bizet’s opera)

Wilderness Road, pr. 1955 (symphonic drama)

The Founders, pr., pb. 1957 (symphonic drama)

The Confederacy, pr., pb. 1958 (symphonic drama)

The Stephen Foster Story, pr. 1959 (symphonic drama)

The Thirsting Heart, pb. 1959

Five Plays of the South, pb. 1963

Cross and Sword, pr. 1965 (symphonic drama)

The Sheltering Plaid, pb. 1965

Texas, pr. 1966

Sing All a Green Willow, pr. 1969

Trumpet in the Land, pr. 1970

Drumbeats in Georgia, pr. 1973

Louisiana Cavalier, pr. 1976

We the People, pr. 1976

The Lone Star, pr. 1977

Long Fiction:

The Laughing Pioneer, 1932

This Body the Earth, 1935

Short Fiction:

Wide Fields, 1928

Salvation on a String, and Other Tales of the South, 1946

Dog on the Sun, 1949

Words and Ways, 1968

Home to My Valley, 1970

Land of Nod, and Other Stories, 1976


Trifles of Thought, 1917 (as P. E. G.)

The Lost Colony Song-Book, 1938

The Highland Call Song-Book, 1941

Song in the Wilderness, 1947

The Common Glory Song-Book, 1951

Texas Forever, 1967

Texas Song-Book, 1967

This View from Above, 1970


Cabin in the Cotton, 1932 (adaptation of Harry Harrison Kroll’s novel)

Dr. Bull, 1933 (adaptation of James Gould Cozzens’s novel The Last Adam)

The Rosary, 1933

State Fair, 1933 (with Sonya Levien; adaptation of Phil Stong’s novel)

Voltaire, 1933 (with Maude T. Howell)

Carolina, 1934 (adaptation of his play The House of Connelly)

David Harum, 1934 (adaptation of Edward Noyes Westcott’s novel)

Time out of Mind, 1947 (adaptation of Rachel Field’s novel)

Broken Soil, 1949

Red Shoes Run Faster, 1949

Roseanna McCoy, 1949 (adaptation of Albert Hannum’s novel)

Black Like Me, 1963 (adaptation of John Howard Griffin’s novel)

Radio Play:

A Start in Life, pr., pb. 1941 (also known as Fine Wagon)


Contemporary American Literature: A Study of Fourteen Outstanding American Writers, 1925 (with Elizabeth Lay Green)

The Hawthorn Tree, 1943

Forever Growing: Some Notes on a Credo for Teachers, 1945

Dramatic Heritage, 1953

Drama and the Weather, 1958

Plough and Furrow, 1963

A Southern Life: Letters of Paul Green, 1916-1981, 1994


A Paul Green Reader, 1998 (Laurence G. Avery, editor)


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.{$I[A]Green, Paul}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Green, Paul}{$I[tim]1894;Green, Paul}

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 Trifles of Thought, a book of poems, before his departure. Serving with the British engineers, he advanced to second lieutenant. He saw intense action in both France and Belgium and suffered from shell shock; afterward, he always avoided violence and considered military action immoral. As a result of his service, he developed a fondness: evaporated milk–especially with corn flakes, his other favorite food.

In 1919 he returned to the University of North Carolina, to his philosophy major, and to his work with Koch. Green found his future wife, Betty Lorine Byrd, among Koch’s Playmakers.

After doing graduate work at Cornell University, he returned to the University of North Carolina as an assistant professor. He taught creative writing, philosophy, and English.

Green wrote of the South in the South and used characters who spoke the Southern dialect. His first full-length play–the first of seven Broadway productions–was In Abraham’s Bosom. This story of struggle between African American and white stepbrothers won for him a Pulitzer Prize in 1927.

In 1930 Green went to Hollywood and wrote and adapted screenplays, like State Fair, from Phil Stong’s book, for Will Rogers and Cabin in the Cotton, from Harry Harrison Kroll’s novel, for Bette Davis. Green also began combining music, entertainment, dance, social statements, and history in “symphonic drama.” The longest-running is his 1937 The Lost Colony in North Carolina. Green wrote some fifteen other outdoor dramas for Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas and often designed the amphitheater and the landscaping in which they were performed.

Green served the University of North Carolina until 1944, when he retired to write. His awards include two Guggenheim Fellowships, three Freedom Foundation Medals, and nine honorary university degrees. In 1978 the University of North Carolina named its new theater after him; the first play there was Native Son, his 1940-1941 collaboration with Richard Wright. In 1979 the General Assembly named him State Dramatist Laureate.

Green’s work continued until the day before his death in 1981. He died in the guest bedroom of his home and was buried in the old Chapel Hill Cemetery near the Paul Green Theater. During his lifetime, Green had protested capital punishment, started the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and the Institute of Outdoor Drama, loaned money to the needy, and spoke against violence and for education. He received posthumous induction into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame (1996) and the Musical Theatre Hall of Fame at New York University (1993). In his honor, his family established the Paul Green Foundation to foster creative writing, human rights, and international amity.

BibliographyGreen, Paul. A Southern Life: Letters of Paul Green, 1916-1981. Edited by Laurence G. Avery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994. This volume of Green’s letters, more than seven hundred pages long, includes illustrations as well as an index.Isaac, Dan. “A White Voice for Downtrodden Blacks.” The New York Times, January 28, 2001, p. 6. Discusses Green’s life and his works, in particular Hymn to the Rising Sun.Kenny, Vincent S. Paul Green. New York: Twayne, 1971. Criticism and interpretation of Green’s works. Includes a bibliography.Lazenby, Walter S. Paul Green. Austin, Tex.: Steck-Vaughn, 1970. This forty-four-page monograph provides a brief commentary on the development of Green’s plays simultaneously with his development as a writer. Green’s early plays are motivated by compassion for the lowly and by the troubling aspects of the South. In Abraham’s Bosom, The Field God, and The House of Connelly are given in-depth analysis. Lazenby then turns to the outdoor symphonic dramas, devoting primary attention to Potter’s Field and The Lost Colony.Rowley, Hazel. “Backstage and Onstage: The Drama of Native Son.” Mississippi Quarterly 52, no. 2 (Spring, 1999): 215-239. Discusses the difficulties encountered when Green adapted Richard Wright’s Native Son for the stage, including John Houseman’s involvement in rewriting Green’s play.Watson, Charles S. The History of Southern Drama. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997. A history of drama in the South that contains a significant discussion of Green and the role that he played in converting regional themes to drama of national interest.
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