Paul Laurence Dunbar

Considered the first important African-American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote in a vernacular style in most of his poetry. He was equally accomplished writing in standard English, publishing traditional novels, short stories, essays as well as poems of this style.

Photo: Paul Laurence Dunbar, half-length portrait; Illus. in: Lyrics of sunshine and shadow / by Paul Laurence Dunbar. New York : Dodd, Mead & Company, 1905, frontispiece; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

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    About

    Born in Dayton, Ohio to ex-slave parents (his father was also a veteran of the Civil War), Dunbar was encouraged to pursue an education through his parents’ love of learning. He is responsible for starting the first African-American newspaper in Dayton.

    While Dunbar’s first volume of poetry, Oak and Ivy (1892), brought attention to his work with his ability to write well in both dialect and standard English, Dunbar did not achieve national fame until his second volume of poetry, Majors and Minors of 1895. Dunbar moved to Washington D. C. and attended Howard University following the publication of Lyrics of Lowly Life, which combined his first two volumes.

    A good friend of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass, Dunbar did not only publish prolifically in all genres, but he also wrote lyrics for the musical In Dahoney, which appeared on Broadway in 1903. The musical, which achieved great success, was a comedy written and performed entirely by African-Americans. Dunbar also collaborated with composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond.

    His travels to England in 1897 brought him into contact with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, an exceptional black composer, whom Dunbar influence greatly. In 1898, upon returning to the United States, Dunbar married the young black writer Alice Ruth Moore, with whom he collaborated on companion books of poetry. Dunbar took a job at the Library of Congress, but died tragically at the age of 33 from tuberculosis.

    –Christie Finn

    Related Information

    Songs

    A Negro Love Song (Jump Back)

    Simon Sargon

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Jump Back!

    A Prayer

    Simon Sargon

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Jump Back!

    A Set of Three Dunbar Poems

    Song Collection

    Betty Jackson King

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    A Song

    Simon Sargon

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Jump Back!

    An African Love Song

    Ethelbert Nevin

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Climbing: Poems by African-Americans

    Song Collection

    Tom Cipullo

    Countee Cullen

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Robert Hayden

    Langston Hughes

    Phillis Wheatley

    Cycle of Songs on Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection

    Zenobia Powell Perry

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Compensation

    Betty Jackson King

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: A Set of Three Dunbar Poems

    Compensation

    Simon Sargon

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Jump Back!

    Dawn

    Tom Cipullo

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Climbing: Poems by African-Americans

    Dawn

    Betty Jackson King

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: A Set of Three Dunbar Poems

    Dawn

    Richard Thompson

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: The Shadow of Dawn: Five Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Dreamin' Town

    Florence Price

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Drizzle

    Zenobia Powell Perry

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Cycle of Songs on Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Florida Night

    Simon Sargon

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Jump Back!

    Forever

    Florence Price

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Four Love Songs

    Song Collection

    Adolphus C. Hailstork

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Invitation to Love

    Adolphus C. Hailstork

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Four Love Songs

    Jump Back!

    Song Collection

    Simon Sargon

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Li'l Gal / My Man

    H. Leslie Adams

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: The Wider View

    Life

    Zenobia Powell Perry

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Cycle of Songs on Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Love's Apotheosis

    Richard Thompson

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: The Shadow of Dawn: Five Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    My Heart to Thy Heart

    Adolphus C. Hailstork

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Four Love Songs

    On a Clean Book

    Zenobia Powell Perry

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Cycle of Songs on Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

    On Emancipation Day

    Will Marion Cook

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    One Life

    Richard Thompson

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: The Shadow of Dawn: Five Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Parted

    William Grant Still

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Songs of Separation

    Prologue: Ships That Pass in the Night

    Jake Heggie

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: A Great Hope Fell: Songs From Civil War

    Response

    George Walker

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Riding to Town

    Thomas H. Kerr

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Spring Song

    Zenobia Powell Perry

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Cycle of Songs on Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Sunset

    Zenobia Powell Perry

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Cycle of Songs on Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Sympathy

    Florence Price

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: Five Art Songs

    Sympathy

    Richard Thompson

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: The Shadow of Dawn: Five Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    The Awakening

    Adolphus C. Hailstork

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    The Shadow of Dawn: Five Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection

    Richard Thompson

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    The Wider View

    Song Collection

    H. Leslie Adams

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Langston Hughes

    Georgia Douglas Johnson

    R. H. Grenville

    James Dillet Freeman

    Theology

    Betty Jackson King

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: A Set of Three Dunbar Poems

    To the Road!

    H. Leslie Adams

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: The Wider View

    We Wear the Mask

    Richard Thompson

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Song Collection: The Shadow of Dawn: Five Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    What's the Use?

    Florence Price

    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Videos

    Books

    The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar

    By Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Sheet Music

    A Set of Three Dunbar Poems

    Composer(s): Betty Jackson King

    Buy via Jacksonian Press

    An African Love Song

    Composer(s): Ethelbert Nevin

    Free via IMSLP

    Climbing: Poems by African-Americans

    Composer(s): Tom Cipullo

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    Five Art Songs

    Composer(s): Florence Price

    Voice Type: Medium High

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    Five Art Songs (JW Pepper)

    Composer(s): Florence Price

    Voice Type: Medium-High

    Buy via JW Pepper

    "On Emancipation Day"

    Composer(s): Will Marion Cook

    View via Library of Congress

    Songs of Separation

    Composer(s): William Grant Still

    Buy via William Grant Still Music

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