The Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar
Narrated By: , ,
Publisher: The Copyright Group Ltd.
Date: May 2020
Duration: 1 hours 7 minutes
Paul Laurence Dunbar was born on June 27th, 1872 in Dayton Ohio. His parents had been slaves in Kentucky before the Civil War. Dunbar wrote his first poem at age 6 and gave his first public recital at age 9. By 16 he was already published as a poet in ‘The Herald’, a local newspaper.After completing his formal schooling in 1891, Dunbar was employed as an elevator operator, at $4 a week. His hopes of a legal career floundered on a lack of funds and racial discrimination. However, he wrote his poetry and took every opportunity to publish. In 1892 his employers sent him to the United Brethren Publishing House which, in 1893, printed his dialect poetry, ‘Oak and Ivy; Dunbar subsidized the printing and earned back his investment in two weeks by selling copies himself.Dunbar also wrote the lyrics for ‘In Dahomey’, the first musical written and performed entirely by African Americans. It was produced on Broadway in 1903; and then toured England and the United States for four years.After returning from a literary tour of United Kingdom, Dunbar married Alice Ruth Moore on March 6th, 1898. She was a teacher and poet from New Orleans. Dunbar called her "the sweetest, smartest little girl I ever saw". Alice would become as famous as Paul during her life for her own literary works.In 1900, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and his doctors recommended drinking whisky to alleviate his symptoms. The couple moved to Colorado as the cold, dry mountain air was considered favorable for his health. Dunbar and Alice separated in 1902, but never divorced. But Depression and declining health drove him to depend on alcohol, and health deteriorated.His short career was prolific; a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, four novels, lyrics for ‘In Dahomey’, and a play. Dunbar’s essays and poems were published widely in leading journals including ‘Harper's Weekly’ and ‘The Saturday Evening Post’. He was also a committed civil rights activist.In 1904 he returned to Dayton to be with his mother. Paul Laurence Dunbar died of tuberculosis on February 9th, 1906, at the age of only thirty-three.