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Poetry History

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Lifespan:June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in Dayton, Ohio to parents who had been freed due to the American Civil War. His talent was apparent from a young age. He wrote his first poem at the age of 6 and gave his first public recital at the age of 9. In 1888, when he was 16, his poems “Our Martyred Soldiers” and “On The River” were first published in Dayton’s The Herald newspaper. With time, Dunbar became acclaimed across America with his poems and essays being published in the leading journals of the day; including Harper’s Weekly, the Saturday Evening Post, the Denver Post and Current Literature. Unfortunately, his career was cut short as he died of tuberculosis at the age of just 33. Much of Dunbar’s best known poetry is written in the “Negro dialect” associated with the antebellum South. Moreover, it is known for its colorful language and conversational tone. Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first influential Black poets in American literature and his poetry is still widely read.


We Wear the Mask1896


Life’s Tragedy1913


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