NE Quadrant, NW Quadrant, East of Rock Creek, African American, Female, Harlem Renaissance Era, LGBTQ, Also of Interest

Mary P. Burrill
(August 1881 - March 13, 1946)

1716 17th St. NW, Dupont Circle neighborhood, DC.

Burrill is a playwright whose best-known work precedes the Harlem Renaissance period. She was teacher to, and a model for, many of the Renaissance-era writers.

Burrill was born in DC, and graduated from M Street High School (1901) and Emerson College in Boston (1904). She returned to DC to teach at Armstrong Manual High School, Dunbar High School, and the Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression, in a teaching career that spanned from 1905 through 1944. She was much loved as a teacher of English, Speech, and Drama, and several of her students became distinguished playwrights in their own right (including Willis Richardson, May Miller, and James Butcher).

Her best-known plays are and The Other Wise Man (1905?), They That Sit in Darkness (1919), and Aftermath (1919). In such works, she spoke out against lynching, and advocated for birth control, publishing plays in such radical journals as Margaret Sanger's Birth Control Review and the socialist journal The Liberator. She shared a house with Lucy D. Stowe, Howard University's first Dean of Women, and letters suggest that earlier she was the lover of another playwright and teacher, Angelina Weld Grimké. After her retirement from teaching, she moved to New York.


1256 Kearney St. NE, Brookland neighborhood, DC.