DuBose Heyward, author of "Porgy and Bess" and other important musicals

Mon, 1885-08-31

Eugene Dubose Heyward, a White American writer and playwright, was born on this date in 1885.

Although his parents were descended from Charleston, SC, aristocracy, the young Heyward did not know the wealth of his grandparents. The city and its citizens were proud, dignified, mannerly, vain, courageous, and poor. The Heyward family knew poverty and lived modestly.

Dubose wrote children's stories, fiction, and short stories during the 1920s and 1930s that focused on the lives of black Americans living on the waterfront of Charleston. Heyward was fascinated with the Gullah language of Black American culture.

He and his wife, Dorothy, dramatized his most successful novels, resulting in major Broadway successes, namely "Porgy & Bess," the first U.S. folk opera, with music by George Gershwin and lyrics co-written by Ira Gershwin and Heyward. Many of the songs from the classic opera have been performed and recorded countless times over the decades, including "Summertime," "I Love You Porgy," and "I'm On My Way."

Heyward and his wife later dramatized his book, "Mamba's Daughters," with much success. Heyward then wrote the screenplay for the 1933 motion picture based on Eugene O'Neill's "Emperor Jones," starring Paul Robeson. The Charleston native also founded the Poetry Society of his home state.

Eugene DuBose Heyward died in 1940.

Lillian B. Hart
Associate Professor
early childhood/elementary education
Clemson University

To become an Art Director

To be a Writer

Person / name: 

Heyward, Dubose