Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 - February 9, 1906) was a seminal African-American poet, Dunbar gained national recognition for his 1896 "Ode to Ethiopia", one poem in the collection Lyrics of Lowly Life.
Youth and educationEdit
Dunbar was born in Dayton, Ohio to parents who had escaped from slavery in Kentucky. His 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 African-American student during the years he attended Dayton's Central High School, and he participated actively as a student. During high school, he was both the editor of the school newspaper and class president, as well as the president of the school literary society. He wrote his first poem at age 6 and gave his first public recital at age 9.
Oak and IvyEdit
In 1890 Dunbar wrote and edited Dayton's first weekly African-American newspaper, The Tattler, printed by the fledgling company of his high school acquaintances, Wilbur and Orville Wright. The paper lasted only 6 weeks.
In 1892 Dunbar asked the Wrights to publish his dialect poems in book form, but the brothers did not have the means to do so. Dunbar was directed to the United Brethren Publishing House who, in 1893 printed his first collection of poetry, Oak and Ivy. The work attracted the attention of James Whitcomb Riley, the popular "Hoosier Poet", who like Dunbar wrote poems in both standard English and dialect.
Dunbar's 2nd book, Majors and Minors (1895), brought him national fame and the patronage of William Dean Howells, the novelist, literary critic, and editor of The Atlantic. After Howells' praise, his first 2 books were combined as Lyrics of Lowly Life and Dunbar started on a career of international literary fame. He moved to Washington, D.C., in the LeDroit Park neighborhood. While in Washington, he attended Howard University.
Dunbar maintained a lifelong friendship with the Wrights. He was also associated with Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Brand Whitlock (who was described as a close friend). He was honored with a ceremonial sword by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Dunbar wrote a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, five novels, and a play. He also wrote lyrics for In Dahomey], the first musical written and performed entirely by African-Americans to appear on Broadway (in 1903); the musical comedy successfully toured England and America over a period of four years - one of the more successful theatrical productions of its time. His essays and poems were published widely in the leading journals of the day. His work appeared in Harper's Weekly, the Saturday Evening Post, the Denver Post, Current Literature, and a number of other publications. During his life, considerable emphasis was laid on the fact that Dunbar was of pure black descent.
Dunbar traveled to England in 1897 to recite his works on the London literary circuit. He met the brilliant young black composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor who set some of his poems to music, and who was influenced by Dunbar to use African and American Negro songs and tunes in future compositions.
Marriage and declining healthEdit
After returning from England, Dunbar married Alice Ruth Moore in 1898. A graduate of Straight University (now Dillard University) in New Orleans, her most famous works include a sonnet entitled "Violets". She and her husband also wrote books of poetry as companion pieces.
Dunbar took a job at the Library of Congress in Washington. In 1900, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to Colorado with his wife on the advice of his doctors. Dunbar and his wife separated in 1902, but they never divorced. Depression and declining health drove him to a dependence on alcohol, which further damaged his health. He moved back to Dayton to be with his mother in 1904.
Dunbar's work is known for its colorful language and use of dialect, and a conversational tone, with a brilliant rhetorical structure. These traits were well matched to the tune-writing ability of Carrie Jacobs-Bond (1862–1946), with whom he collaborated.
Much of Dunbar's work was authored in conventional English, while some was rendered in African-American dialect. Dunbar remained always suspicious that there was something demeaning about the marketability of dialect poems:
- I am tired, so tired of dialect. I send out graceful little poems, suited for any of the magazines, but they are returned to me by editors who say, Dunbar, but we do not care for the language compositions.
Two brief examples of Dunbar's work, the first in standard English and the second in dialect, demonstrate the diversity of the poet's production:
- What dreams we have and how they fly
- Like rosy clouds across the sky;
- Of wealth, of fame, of sure success,
- Of love that comes to cheer and bless;
- And how they wither, how they fade,
- The waning wealth, the jilting jade —
- The fame that for a moment gleams,
- Then flies forever, — dreams, ah — dreams!
- Sunshine on de medders,
- Greenness on de way;
- Dat's de blessed reason
- I sing all de day.
- Look hyeah! What you axin'?
- What meks me so merry?
- 'Spect to see me sighin'
- W'en hit's wa'm in Febawary?
(From "A warm day in winter")
In 2002, Molefi Kete Asante listed Paul Laurence Dunbar on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
Places named in his honor include:
- Dunbar High School In various cities
- Dunbar Hospital (Detroit, Michigan)
- Dunbar Magnet Middle School (Little Rock, Arkansas)
- Dunbar Middle School (Lynchburg, Virginia)
- Paul Laurence Dunbar Library (Dayton, Ohio)
- Paul Laurence Dunbar J.H.S 120/M.S. 301 (Bronx, NY)
- Paul Laurence Dunbar Lancaster-Keist Branch Library (Dallas, Texas)
- Dunbar High School (Fort Myers, Florida)
- The Dunbar Hotel (Los Angeles, California)
In popular cultureEdit
Paul and Alice Dunbar's love and marriage was depicted in a play by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson titled Oak and Ivy.
Dunbar's vaudeville song "Who Dat Say Chicken in Dis Crowd" may have influenced the development of "Who Dat?|Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say gonna beat dem Saints?", the New Orleans Saints' chant.
- Oak and Ivy. United Brethren Publishing House, 1893.
- Majors and Minors: Poems. Hadley & Hadley, 1896.
- Lyrics of Lowly Life (includes poems from Oak and Ivy and Majors and Minors, introduction by William Dean Howells). Dodd, 1896.
- Lyrics of the Hearthside. Dodd, 1899.
- Poems of Cabin and Field (collection of eight previously published poems, illustrated by wife, Alice Morse, photographs by Hampton Institute Camera Club). Dodd, 1899.
- Candle-lightin' Time. Dodd, 1901.
- Lyrics of Love and Laughter. Dodd, 1903.
- When Malindy Sings. Dodd, 1903.
- Li'l Gal. Dodd, 1904.
- Chris'mus Is a Comin', and other poems. Dodd, 1905.
- Howdy, Howdy, Howdy. Dodd, 1905.
- Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow. Dodd, 1905.
- A Plantation Portrait. Dodd, 1905.
- Joggin' Erlong. Dodd, 1906.
- Complete Poems. Dodd, 1913.
- Speakin' o' Christmas, and other Christmas and special poems. Dodd, 1914.
- Little Brown Baby: Poems for young people (edited and with biographical sketch by Bertha Rodgers, illustrated by Erick Berry). Dodd, 1940.
- I Greet the Dawn: Poems (edited and with an introduction by Ashley Bryan). Atheneum, 1978.
- Collected Poetry (edited by Joanne M. Braxton). Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1993.
- Selected Poems. Dover Publications, 1997.
- The Uncalled: A novel. Dodd, 1898.
- The Love of Landry. Dodd, 1900.
- The Fanatics. Dodd, 1901.
- The Sport of the Gods. Dodd, 1902
- (with introduction by Kenny J. Williams), 1981
- published in England as The Jest of Fate: A story of Negro life. Jarrold, 1902.
- Folks From Dixie. Dodd, 1898.
- The Strength of Gideon, and other stories (illustrated by Edward Windsor Kemble). Dodd, 1900.
- In Old Plantation Days (illustrated by B. Martin Justice). Dodd, 1903.
- The Heart of Happy Hollow. Dodd, 1904.
- Best Stories (edited & with introduction by Benjamin Brawley). Dodd, 1938.
- Life and Works (edited & with biography by Lida Keck Wiggins). Napierville, IL, & Memphis, TN: J.L. Nichols, 1907.
- The Paul Laurence Dunbar Reader (edited by Jay Martin & Gossie H. Hudson). Dodd, 1975.
- Letters of Paul and Alice Dunbar: A private history (edited by Eugene Wesley Metcalf). (2 volumes), University Microfilms, 1974.
- Dream Lovers: An operatic romance (libretto for operetta; music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor). Boosey, 1898.
- (Author of lyrics) In Dahomey (stage show; music by Will Marion Cook), produced in Boston, then at Buckingham Palace, England, in honor of the birthday of the Prince of Wales, 1903.
- (Contributor) The Negro Problem: A series of articles by representative American Negroes. James Pott, 1903.
- (Contributor) Selected Songs Sung by Students of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Tuskegee Institute, 1904.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Fred Howard (1998). Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 560. ISBN 0486402975.
- ↑ Paul Laurence, Printed Material
- ↑ Riis, Thomas L., Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890-1915. (Smithsonian Institution Press: London, 1989) p. 91.
- ↑ "Biography page at Paul Laurence Dunbar web site". University of Dayton. February 3, 2003. http://www.dunbarsite.org/biopld.asp.
- ↑ "Paul Laurence Dunbar". Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=307. Retrieved October 17, 2010.
- ↑ The collaboration is described by Max Morath in I Love You Truly: A Biographical Novel Based on the Life of Carrie Jacobs-Bond (New York: iUniverse, 2008), ISBN 9780595530175, p. 17. Morath explicitly cites "The Last Long Rest" and "Poor Little Lamb" (a.k.a. "Sunshine") and alludes to three more songs for which the lyrics are by Dunbar and the music by Jacobs-Bond.
- ↑ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
- ↑ St. Louis - Arts & Entertainment - Color Bind
- ↑ Dave Dunbar, The chant is older than we think in Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 2010 January 13, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. A1, A10.
- ↑ Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872-1906, Poetry Foundation, Web, Aug. 26, 2012.
- Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872-1906 at the Poetry Foundation
- 5 poems by Dunbar: "Easter Ode," "October," "In Summer Time," "In Summer," "In August"
- Paul Laurence Dunbar profile & 12 poems at the Academy of American Poets
- Selected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) (12 poems) at Representative Poetry Online
- Additional Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar
- Paul Laurence Dunbar at PoemHunter (424 poems)
- Paul Laurence Dunbar at Poetry Nook (490 poems)
- Works by Paul Laurence Dunbar at Project Gutenberg
- Works by Paul Laurence Dunbar at Internet Archive.
- Wright State University's Paul Laurence Dunbar Library special collection
- Audio / video
- Dunbar's Legacy of Language, a 2006 NPR story marking the 100th anniversary of Dunbar's death; included is a poetry reading.
- Paul Laurence Dunbar: Online Resources, from the Library of Congress
- Paul Laurence Dunbar at NNDB.
- Dunbar, Paul Laurence in the Oxford Companion to African-American Literature.
- University of Dayton's Paul Laurence Dunbar web page
- Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) at Modern American Poetry.
- The Life and Works of Paul Lawrence Dunbar by Lida Keck Wiggins, issued by Winston-Derek in 1992 ISBN 1-55523-473-9
- Paul Laurence Dunbar at Find a Grave.
- Dunbar House state historical site, by the Ohio Historical Society
- Dunbar house is also part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park which includes both the Wright Brothers bicycle shop and Dunbar's home (along with a bicycle the Wrights gave him).
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