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Shirlene Holmes papers

Identifier: aarl011-006

Scope and Contents note

The Shirlene Holmes papers, 1972-2007, documents her professional and personal life through correspondence, diaries, journals, scrapbooks, photographs, print materials, publications, audio-visual formats and ephemera. The primary focus of the collection is her work as a playwright, which includes drafts, rewrites, scripts and related printed material. Unless otherwise noted, all plays are written by Holmes. Also documented is Holmes’s career as a professor at Georgia State University and her various ties to artist, African American, women’s, and lesbian and gay communities, primarily in Atlanta, Georgia. Her work in the Communications and Theater departments at GSU include course syllabi and assignments, and student papers. Scope and content notes per series follow.


  • 1972-2007


Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use note

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Requests to publish or reproduce materials must be submitted through the Archives Division.

Biographical/Historical note

Shirlene Holmes, daughter of Vadis Holmes Jackson, was born on March 7, 1958, in Bronx, New York. Soon after, Ms. Jackson moved her two daughters, Shirlene and Annette, to Queens, where the children were raised and attended school. Holmes earned her B.A. in English from York College of the City University of New York in June 1980. In 1982, she premiered her first solo biographical drama, "Ain't I A Woman!" a play based on the life of Sojourner Truth, an African American abolitionist and pioneering women's rights activist. The following year Holmes left New York to pursue a M.F.A in Theatre and Playwriting at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. After completing the program in 1985, she remained and earned her doctorate in Speech (Performance Studies) in 1992.

In 1989, Holmes continued her work in solo biographical drama, writing and performing "No Detours Ahead," which was based on the life of American jazz singer and songwriter Billie Holiday. The same year, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, after accepting a position as faculty in the Communication Department at Georgia State University. There, she began teaching Speech, Theatre, Women Studies and African American Studies courses, while continuing theatrical endeavors. In 1990, for example, she wrote, "Current Events," which consisted of five vignettes, each exploring contemporary women's responses to social oppression. Also that year, Holmes wrote "Oh Slavery Days," a play that used oral narratives, spirituals, and dance to address the history of American slavery.

For the past two decades while at Georgia State University, Holmes has written, performed, and directed solo dramas, plays, and other theatrical forms, which have been staged locally, nationally, and internationally. Many of her creative works address identity and the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, spirituality, and class. Her play, "Conversation with a Diva," opened in 1995 at the Nexus Contemporary Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The next year her full length play, "A Lady and A Woman," was published in Amazon Allstars: 13 Lesbian Plays. Holmes is also an accomplished poet, having published two books of poetry, "Coming Into Being" and "Afterpiece," as well as individual poems in various magazines and other publications. She also played the role of Lena Younger in On Stage Atlanta's 1991 production of "A Raisin in the Sun."

As a playwright, poet, scholar and speaker, Dr. Shirlene Holmes has attended and participated in numerous professional conferences, as well as civic engagements. These include the 4th Annual International Women Playwright Conference in Galway, Ireland (1997), where she was the only African American playwright, and the Mt. Sequoyah Play Retreat in 1994. Throughout her career, Holmes has received numerous awards, such as the Carbondale chapter of the NAACP Image Award in the Arts (1989), the Appreciation Award from the Black Togetherness Organization at Sothern Illinois University in Carbondale (1991), the Nancy Dean Distinguished Playwright Award from Sisters Onstage (1997), and the Lorraine Hansberry Scriptwriting Award from the Literary Exchange (2000). In addition, Holmes attended the Barbara King School of Ministry in Atlanta, where she was ordained in June 1999.


35.19 Linear feet

50 boxes and 5 oversize boxes



Arrangement note

The collection is arranged by series.

Series 1: Correspondence Series 2: Personal Papers Series 3: Professional Papers Series 4: Georgia State University Series 5: Subject Files Series 6: Printed Material and Publications Series 7: Audio-Visuals Series 8: Awards, Plaques, and Decorative Plate Series 9: Textiles and Buttons

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The collection was donated to the Auburn Avenue Research Library by Dr. Shirlene Holmes in 2006.
aarl011-006 aarl011-006
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History Repository

101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta GA 30303