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DuBose Heyward Biography

(1885–1940), Porgy, Porgy and Bess, Mamba's Daughters, Peter Ashley, Star Spangled Virgin, Carolina Chansons

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: John Hersey Biography to Honest Man's Revenge

American novelist, dramatist, and poet, born in Charleston, South Carolina. He was an insurance salesman before his great success with Porgy (1925); its fatalistic story of a beggar driven to murder is set among a community of African-Americans in a ghetto area of Charleston immortalized as Catfish Row. In 1927 Heyward and his wife, Dorothy, collaborated on a popular dramatic version which won the Pulitzer Prize, and was published in 1928; Porgy and Bess (1935), the famous musical version of the novel, was composed by George Gershwin. Mamba's Daughters (1929) deals with an African-American family, its members struggling for economic betterment over three generations; a dramatized version, again in collaboration with his wife, was produced in 1939. Other novels include Peter Ashley (1932), a Civil War saga; and Star Spangled Virgin (1939), set in the Virgin Islands and notable for its scepticism about New Deal attempts to better the lot of African-Americans. His poems, steeped in Southern folklore, and exploring similar terrain to the novels, have been collected in Carolina Chansons (1922), Skylines and Horizons (1924), and Jasbo Brown (1931). See Frank Durham, Heyward, the Man who Wrote Porgy (1965).

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