| Bibliography | Dunbar
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(Dodd, Mead & Co., 1901)
Paul Laurence Dunbar was
born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio. His parents, Matilda and
Joshua, were bother former slaves. Joshua, who had served
in the Union Army during the Civil War, left the family
in 1874, so Dunbar was raised primarily by his mother.
Matilda passed on her love of poetry, songs, and storytelling
to her children, and encouraged their education.
High School as the only African American
student. He was a very successful student, editor of
the school paper, and president of the literary society.
He briefly edited
a newspaper called The Tattler, which he and his classmate
Wright created. By the age of fourteen, Dunbar's
first poems were published in
After high school, Dunbar had difficulty finding employment
due to racial discrimination.
He secured a
job as an elevator operator, and continued submitting
his poems to newspapers and magazines with limited success.
Lyrics of Lowly Life
(Dodd, Mead & Co, 1896)
Dunbar gave his first public
reading on his twentieth birthday for the Western Association
of Writers. His work was enthusiastically received, and
Dunbar began drawing regional attention. In 1893, Dunbar
printed his first poetry collection, Oak
and Ivy, at his own expense. He sold copies
to his elevator patrons for a dollar. Later that year,
Dunbar went to Chicago for the first World’s
Fair. There be befriended Frederick
Douglass, the renowned writer and abolitionist. Douglass
arranged for Dunbar to recite poetry at the fair, calling
him, “the most promising young colored man in America.”
Dunbar’s second collection
of poetry, Majors
and Minors, was published in 1895. This book finally
propelled Dunbar to national fame, thanks in large part
to a favorable
review from prominent literary critic William
Indeed, Howells was so impressed with Dunbar’s
work, he arranged for publication of a third anthology
entitled Lyrics of a Lowly Life, which
first two books. In 1897, Dunbar traveled to England
for a six-month literary tour.
Poems of Cabin and Field
(Dodd, Mead & Co., 1900)
After returning from England, Dunbar married Alice
Ruth Moore, a black Creole teacher, writer, and proponent
of racial and gender equality. Dunbar had initiated correspondence
with Alice in 1895, and married her in secret over the
objection of friends and family. Although they resided
in Washington for just more than a year, the Dunbars
greatly influenced the art and culture of the city. Their
home in LeDroit
Park was a social center of African American
life. Dignitaries, politicians, and literary figures
traveled to visit Dunbar from all over the country. Dunbar
took a job at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
but it is believed that dust from old books and manuscripts
aggravated his tuberculosis, forcing him to leave.
Dunbar relocated to Colorado, and later to the Catskills.
He devoted his time to writing and giving recitals. Over
the next decade, Dunbar published four collections of
short stories, four novels, poetry, plays, and music.
Forty of his poems were set to music by famous composers
of his time, and fifteen of his short stories appeared
in renowned periodicals.
Although Dunbar’s career won him fame and success,
he continued to suffer from tuberculosis. Dunbar increasingly
used alcohol to ease pain of his illness. His
eventual addiction led to the end of his marriage after
years, and further damaged his health. Dunbar returned
to Dayton in 1904, and died two years later at the age
text available for hyperlinked titles)
Love of Landry,
From Dixie, 1898.
Strength of Gideon,
Old Plantation Days,
Dream Lovers: An Operatic Romance,
Uncle Eph's Christmas,
of lyrics for stage show),
and Ivy, 1893
and Minors, 1895.
of the Hearthside,
of Cabin and Field,
of Love and
the PBO database for books by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Dunbar Teaching Resources based on Publishers'
Dialect Poems of Paul
Laurence Dunbar, 6-12 lesson plan: Word
document or PDF
Dialect Poems of Paul
Laurence Dunbar, handout: Word
document or PDF
Jarret, Gene Andrew
and Thomas Lewis Morgan, ed. The Complete Stories
of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Forward by Shelley
Fisher Fishkin. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, American
Memory, Library of Congress
Paul Laurance Dunbar: Dayton
Native, National Treasure
Paul Laurence Dunbar Digital
Collection, Wright State University Libraries
Paul Laurence Dunbar's
Legacy of Language, NPR
Paul Laurence Dunbar, Modern
Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ohioana
Paul Laurence Dunbar Scrapbook,
Paul Laurence Dunbar: The
People's Poet, American Experience, PBS