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Biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 - 1906)

Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 - February 9, 1906) was a seminal African-American poet in the late 19th and early 20th century. Dunbar gained national recognition for his 1896 Lyrics of a Lowly Life. Born in Dayton, Ohio to parents who had escaped from slavery, Dunbar died from tuberculosis at 34.

Dunbar's father was a veteran of the American Civil War, having served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment. His parents instilled in him a love of learning and history. He was the only black student at Dayton Central High School, but he participated actively as a student. He wrote his first poem at age 6 and gave his first public recital at age 9. Dunbar's first published work came in a newspaper put out by his high-school friends, Wilbur and Orville Wright, who owned a printing plant. The Wright Brothers later invested in the Dayton Tattler, a newspaper aimed at the black community edited and published by Dunbar.

His first collection of poetry, Oak and Ivy was published in 1892 and attracted the attention of James Whitcomb Riley, the popular "Hoosier Poet". Both Riley and Dunbar wrote poems in both standard English and dialect. His second book, Majors and Minors (1895) brought him national fame and the patronage of William Dean Howells, the novelist and critic and editor of Harper's Weekly. After Howells' praise, his first two books were combined as Lyrics of a Lowly Life and Dunbar started on a career of international literary fame that was cut short by his death.

He kept a lifelong friendship with the Wrights, and was also closely associated with Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. He was honored with a ceremonial sword by President Theodore Roosevelt.

He wrote a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, and five novels and a play. His essays and poems were published widely in the leading journals of the day. During his life, considerable emphasis was laid on the fact that Dunbar was of pure black descent, with no white ancestors.


Biography by: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Paul Laurence Dunbar.


38 Poems written by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The poems are by default sorted according to volume, but you can also choose to sort them alphabetically or by page views.

Volume | Alphabetically | Page Views | Comments | [First Lines]


First LineComments
A hush is over all the teeming lists,
A lilt and a swing,
Ah, Douglass, we have fall'n on evil days,
Air a-gittin' cool an' coolah,
Because you love me I have much achieved, Comments and analysis of Encouraged by Paul Laurence Dunbar 28 Comments
Come to the pane, draw the curtain apart,
Dey is times in life when Nature Comments and analysis of When de Co'n Pone's Hot by Paul Laurence Dunbar 39 Comments
DO' a-stan'in' on a jar, fiah a-shinin'
FOLKS ain't got no right to censuah othah folks about dey habits; Comments and analysis of Accountability by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
G'way an' quit dat noise, Miss Lucy-- Comments and analysis of When Malindy Sings by Paul Laurence Dunbar 69 Comments
He was a poet who wrote clever verses,
I am the mother of sorrows, Comments and analysis of The Paradox by Paul Laurence Dunbar 5 Comments
I Found you and I lost you, Comments and analysis of A Golden Day by Paul Laurence Dunbar 232 Comments
I have seen peoples come and go Comments and analysis of Old by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
I know what the caged bird feels, alas! Comments and analysis of Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar 150 Comments
I like to hear of wealth and gold,
If I could but forget Comments and analysis of If I Could But Forget by Paul Laurence Dunbar 9 Comments
It may be misery not to sing at all, Comments and analysis of Life's Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
It's all a farce,—these tales they tell
I've been list'nin' to them lawyers Comments and analysis of The Lawyers' Ways by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
Little brown baby wif spa'klin' eyes, Comments and analysis of Little Brown Baby by Paul Laurence Dunbar 52 Comments
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing; Comments and analysis of Ships that Pass in the Night by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
Pray why are you so bare, so bare, Comments and analysis of The Haunted Oak by Paul Laurence Dunbar 54 Comments
Seen my lady home las' night, Comments and analysis of A Negro Love Song by Paul Laurence Dunbar 4 Comments
STEP me now a bridal measure,
The Midnight wooed the Morning Star,
The mist has left the greening plain, Comments and analysis of Morning by Paul Laurence Dunbar 26 Comments
The Oriole sings in the greening grove
There is a heaven, for ever, day by day, Comments and analysis of Theology by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
They please me not-- these solemn songs
This is the debt I pay Comments and analysis of The Debt by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
We wear the mask that grins and lies, Comments and analysis of We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar 258 Comments
When a woman looks up at you with a twist about her eyes, Comments and analysis of The Made to Order Smile by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
WHO dat knockin' at de do'? Comments and analysis of Encouragement by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
Wintah, summah, snow er shine,
W'en daih's chillun in de house,
"I am but clay," the sinner plead, Comments and analysis of Distinction by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
'Twas the apple that in Eden Comments and analysis of The Unlucky Apple by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment


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