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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

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Page ViewsPoemComments
30336 Sympathy Comments and analysis of Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar 151 Comments
16327 The Paradox Comments and analysis of The Paradox by Paul Laurence Dunbar 5 Comments
13185 Life's Tragedy Comments and analysis of Life's Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
8716 The Debt Comments and analysis of The Debt by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
8107 The Lawyers' Ways Comments and analysis of The Lawyers' Ways by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
8050 A Negro Love Song Comments and analysis of A Negro Love Song by Paul Laurence Dunbar 4 Comments
7741 A Choice
7408 A Golden Day Comments and analysis of A Golden Day by Paul Laurence Dunbar 234 Comments
7369 Ships that Pass in the Night Comments and analysis of Ships that Pass in the Night by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
7322 Frederick Douglass
5428 Encouragement Comments and analysis of Encouragement by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
4754 Morning Comments and analysis of Morning by Paul Laurence Dunbar 26 Comments
4492 Theology Comments and analysis of Theology by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
4281 Accountability Comments and analysis of Accountability by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
4276 If I Could But Forget Comments and analysis of If I Could But Forget by Paul Laurence Dunbar 9 Comments
4118 The Haunted Oak Comments and analysis of The Haunted Oak by Paul Laurence Dunbar 54 Comments
4015 Douglass
3954 To Dan
3894 Common Things
3810 The Unlucky Apple Comments and analysis of The Unlucky Apple by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
3536 Summer in the South
3413 Signs of the Times
3386 My Little March Girl
3081 At the Tavern
2979 Howdy, Honey, Howdy
2921 Distinction Comments and analysis of Distinction by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
2818 The Barrier
2809 Old Comments and analysis of Old by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
2708 Merry Autumn
2695 The Made to Order Smile Comments and analysis of The Made to Order Smile by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
2510 The Old Front Gate
620 When Malindy Sings Comments and analysis of When Malindy Sings by Paul Laurence Dunbar 70 Comments
570 Little Brown Baby Comments and analysis of Little Brown Baby by Paul Laurence Dunbar 52 Comments
441 We Wear the Mask Comments and analysis of We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar 260 Comments
397 When de Co'n Pone's Hot Comments and analysis of When de Co'n Pone's Hot by Paul Laurence Dunbar 41 Comments
356 Encouraged Comments and analysis of Encouraged by Paul Laurence Dunbar 28 Comments
273 Song
261 Confirmation


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