Paul Laurence Dunbar Poetry

Poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar, from the book White Side of a Black Subject by Norman Wood. Chicago: American Publishing, 1897. Image courtesy of the Perry-Castañeda Library Portrait Gallery, University of Texas at Austin.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, from the book White Side of a Black Subject by Norman Wood. Chicago: American Publishing, 1897. Image courtesy of the Perry-Castañeda Library Portrait Gallery, University of Texas at Austin.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 – 1906) was an African-American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who had been slaves in Kentucky before the American Civil War, Dunbar started to write poetry and give public recitations before the age of ten. He was the only African-American student during his years at Central High School in Dayton, where he was well-accepted, became president of the high school’s literary society, and began a lifelong friendship with Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Dunbar wrote in both conventional English and the African-American dialect associated with the antebellum South. He started his career by working as an elevator operator, selling copies of his books to elevator passengers. Eventually he attracted the attention of William Dean Howells, a leading critic associated with Harper’s Weekly, and as a result Dunbar became one of the first African-American writers to establish a national reputation. Suffering from tuberculosis, Dunbar died at the age of 33.

Enjoy reading Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry available on the EIL site:

“Ships That Pass in the Night”

“The Haunted Oak”

If you search for “Paul Laurence Dunbar” on Project Gutenberg, you can find many of his works available for reading or download there.

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The brief biography on this page was adapted from the Wikipedia text available under a Creative Commons License.

 

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