Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

2168 WordsDec 16, 20129 Pages
Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African American poet who was born on June 27, 1872 in Dayton, Ohio. His parents were both former slaves from Kentucky. His father, Joshua, had escaped from slavery and joined the 55th Massachusetts Colored Calvary Regiment during the Civil War. His mother, Matilda, worked as a washerwoman for several families including the Wright family whose sons, Orville and Wilbur, went to school with Dunbar at Dayton’s Central High School. Matilda was very supportive of her children and taught them to read and love storytelling. Dunbar was encouraged at an early age to write and recite poetry. He was extremely intelligent and dedicated to his school work. Although he was the only African American in his class, Dunbar managed to become a member of the debate society, editor of the school’s paper, and president of the school’s literary society. His race made it difficult for him to find a job, but because of his literary skill he was able to write for several community newspapers. In 1892, Dunbar published his first book of poetry called Oak and Ivy. Dunbar’s reputation spread with every book he sold and in 1893, he recited his poetry at the World’s Fair. Fredrick Douglas, one of the most famous abolitionists of his time, called Dunbar “the most promising colored man in America.” In 1897, Dunbar married Alice Ruth Moore, a supporter of racial and gender equality. During that same year Dunbar was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In 1902, Dunbar and Alice separated and as a result depression set in. Dunbar’s health began to decline and he died on February 9, 1906. As a result of his parents being slaves and many other racial hardships during his life Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry expresses the efforts of African Americans to achieve equality in America. One of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s most famous poems is “Sympathy” which describes a bird that is stuck in its

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