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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

"Folk Plays"

Frederick Henry Koch (1877-1944) and Paul Green (1894-1981)

Koch’s playwriting classes served as a training ground for a new generation of southern writers. His mentor at Harvard, George Pierce Baker, encouraged his students to write plays on subjects native to Americans. Taking his cue, Koch urged his own students to write “folk plays” in the sense of the German “volk,” focusing on the legends, customs, language, and daily life of the common people. His emphasis on realistic subject matter led students to select topics outside “genteel” literary standards. Many of Koch’s students, including Paul Green, took as their subject the experiences of marginalized populations of the South, including African Americans and North Carolina Indians.