Paul Laurence Dunbar

1872 – 1906

Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first internationally renowned Black American poet and writer. Although both of Dunbar’s parents were illiterate, his mother strongly encouraged him to get an education. He became the president of the Literary Society at Dayton Central High School and the editor of the school paper. After graduation, he collaborated with his schoolmate Orville Wright on the Dayton Tattler, a black neighborhood newspaper printed by the Wright Brothers on their West Third Street presses. Over his tragically short lifetime, Dunbar produced a body of work which included novels, plays, short stories, newspaper articles, essays, and over 600 poems. His work contributed to a growing social consciousness and cultural identity for Black Americans of the period. He is associated with the early civil rights leaders W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington.