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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.

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Page ViewsPoemComments
32571 Sympathy Comments and analysis of Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar 188 Comments
15591 Life's Tragedy Comments and analysis of Life's Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
9683 A Golden Day Comments and analysis of A Golden Day by Paul Laurence Dunbar 250 Comments
9443 The Lawyers' Ways Comments and analysis of The Lawyers' Ways by Paul Laurence Dunbar 4 Comments
8321 A Choice
8287 Ships that Pass in the Night Comments and analysis of Ships that Pass in the Night by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
8275 Frederick Douglass Comments and analysis of Frederick Douglass by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
6861 If I Could But Forget Comments and analysis of If I Could But Forget by Paul Laurence Dunbar 27 Comments
6173 Encouragement Comments and analysis of Encouragement by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
5401 Theology Comments and analysis of Theology by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
5151 Accountability Comments and analysis of Accountability by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
4464 Common Things
4398 The Unlucky Apple Comments and analysis of The Unlucky Apple by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
3977 Signs of the Times
3879 My Little March Girl
3484 Howdy, Honey, Howdy
3438 Old Comments and analysis of Old by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
3381 The Barrier
3214 Merry Autumn
3203 The Old Front Gate
2010 When Malindy Sings Comments and analysis of When Malindy Sings by Paul Laurence Dunbar 93 Comments
1747 Little Brown Baby Comments and analysis of Little Brown Baby by Paul Laurence Dunbar 67 Comments
1620 Encouraged Comments and analysis of Encouraged by Paul Laurence Dunbar 32 Comments
968 Song
942 Confirmation
866 We Wear the Mask Comments and analysis of We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar 280 Comments
807 Distinction Comments and analysis of Distinction by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
739 Morning Comments and analysis of Morning by Paul Laurence Dunbar 35 Comments
622 The Haunted Oak Comments and analysis of The Haunted Oak by Paul Laurence Dunbar 78 Comments
465 The Made to Order Smile Comments and analysis of The Made to Order Smile by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
384 The Debt Comments and analysis of The Debt by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
335 Douglass
159 The Paradox Comments and analysis of The Paradox by Paul Laurence Dunbar 5 Comments
156 A Negro Love Song Comments and analysis of A Negro Love Song by Paul Laurence Dunbar 17 Comments
124 To Dan
122 Summer in the South
70 When de Co'n Pone's Hot Comments and analysis of When de Co'n Pone's Hot by Paul Laurence Dunbar 59 Comments
65 At the Tavern


Books by Paul Laurence Dunbar
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