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.

Image: Paul Laurence Dunbar, sketch, public domain

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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

Videos

Books

The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar

By Paul Laurence Dunbar

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

Audio

Track:

    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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