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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


Page ViewsPoemComments
31643 Sympathy Comments and analysis of Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar 183 Comments
15220 Life's Tragedy Comments and analysis of Life's Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
9287 A Golden Day Comments and analysis of A Golden Day by Paul Laurence Dunbar 249 Comments
9084 The Lawyers' Ways Comments and analysis of The Lawyers' Ways by Paul Laurence Dunbar 4 Comments
8844 A Negro Love Song Comments and analysis of A Negro Love Song by Paul Laurence Dunbar 14 Comments
8204 A Choice
8016 Frederick Douglass Comments and analysis of Frederick Douglass by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
7961 Ships that Pass in the Night Comments and analysis of Ships that Pass in the Night by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
6659 If I Could But Forget Comments and analysis of If I Could But Forget by Paul Laurence Dunbar 23 Comments
6049 Encouragement Comments and analysis of Encouragement by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
5428 Douglass
5250 Theology Comments and analysis of Theology by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
4900 Accountability Comments and analysis of Accountability by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
4356 Common Things
4320 To Dan
4291 The Unlucky Apple Comments and analysis of The Unlucky Apple by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
4034 Summer in the South
3853 Signs of the Times
3773 My Little March Girl
3633 At the Tavern
3390 Howdy, Honey, Howdy
3275 The Barrier
3193 Old Comments and analysis of Old by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments
3087 Merry Autumn
3040 The Old Front Gate
1851 When Malindy Sings Comments and analysis of When Malindy Sings by Paul Laurence Dunbar 93 Comments
1532 Little Brown Baby Comments and analysis of Little Brown Baby by Paul Laurence Dunbar 66 Comments
1372 Encouraged Comments and analysis of Encouraged by Paul Laurence Dunbar 31 Comments
1098 When de Co'n Pone's Hot Comments and analysis of When de Co'n Pone's Hot by Paul Laurence Dunbar 56 Comments
941 The Paradox Comments and analysis of The Paradox by Paul Laurence Dunbar 5 Comments
807 Confirmation
786 Song
632 We Wear the Mask Comments and analysis of We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar 278 Comments
550 Distinction Comments and analysis of Distinction by Paul Laurence Dunbar 2 Comments
523 Morning Comments and analysis of Morning by Paul Laurence Dunbar 34 Comments
345 The Haunted Oak Comments and analysis of The Haunted Oak by Paul Laurence Dunbar 69 Comments
344 The Made to Order Smile Comments and analysis of The Made to Order Smile by Paul Laurence Dunbar 1 Comment
84 The Debt Comments and analysis of The Debt by Paul Laurence Dunbar 3 Comments


Books by Paul Laurence Dunbar
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