north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
      Among North Carolina’s most revered writers, Paul Eliot Green was born in Harnett County, a region he wrote about and returned to all his life. He began study at the University of North Carolina in 1916. Service in World War I interrupted his work but he completed his degree in 1921, soon thereafter marrying Elizabeth Lay. He pursued graduate study at Cornell but returned to Chapel Hill as a philosophy professor in 1923. In 1939 he became a professor of dramatic art and associate of his mentor Frederick Koch, a post he held until 1944, resigning then to devote full time to writing.

     Plays were Green’s favored art form but he also wrote short stories, novels, and poetry. In 1927 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the play In Abraham’s Bosom. He took an early interest in motion pictures and in 1932 entered a contract with Warner Brothers to write scripts. His signature achievement was development of the outdoor drama (or “symphonic drama,” as he termed it). Green’s best-known production was The Lost Colony which opened on Roanoke Island in 1937 and runs to this day. Over time Green wrote sixteen such plays, with productions staged in Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, and elsewhere.

     Green’s honors were many, including designation by the General Assembly in 1979 as the state’s Dramatist Laureate. Outside the arts, Green from an early age demonstrated sympathy and compassion for African Americans and the underprivileged. He was a lifelong champion of human rights and a dedicated opponent of war, lynching, capital punishment, chain gangs, and prejudice. He long lived off Raleigh Road in Chapel Hill, an area now known as Greenwood. His last home was “Windy Oaks,” south of Chapel Hill.


References:
Laurence G. Avery, ed., The Paul Green Reader (1998)
Laurence G. Avery, ed., A Southern Life: Letters of Paul Green, 1916-1981 (1994)
John H. Roper, Paul Green: Playwright of the Real South (2003)
Vincent S. Kenny, Paul Green (1971)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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