Shirley Graham Du Bois, Rosenwald Fellowship Recipient, Profiled in Yale Magazine

Posted on April 18th, 2017 by

Julius Rosenwald’s legacy includes the creation of the Rosenwald Fund Fellowship, which supported African-American intellectuals in the pursuit of advanced scholarship. Among the esteemed class of recipients was W.E.B. Du Bois, best known for his work as a civil rights activist; however, he was not the only one in his family to have received the honor. W.E.B. Du Bois’ wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, also shared this distinction. Graham Du Bois was recently profiled in Yale Alumni Magazine.

Shirley Graham Du Bois was an intellectual and creative force of nature in her own right in the 1930s up until her death in the 1970s. Her exceptional talents as a composer and musician led her to opportunities to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Oberlin College, where she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music composition.

Shirley Graham Du Bois
(Image from Yale Alumni Magazine and the Library of Congress)

In 1938, Graham Du Bois became the recipient of a Rosenwald Fund Fellowship, supporting her doctoral studies at Yale in playwriting. Graham Du Bois’ literary and musical works reflected on African American history and the African American experience, commenting on racial prejudice and bigotry in America. Her bend towards civil rights activism continued when she joined the NAACP, during which time she also wrote and published a collection of biographies on African Americans. Her book on Frederick Douglass earned her a Julian Messner award in 1946.

Graham Du Bois continued her civil rights work up until her death in 1977. The connection between her legacy and that of Julius Rosenwald demonstrates the important impact of the Rosenwald Fellowship in the support of African American artists and activists in the 20th century.

Read the article in Yale Alumni Magazine here