A Brief Biographical Sketch of Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar, a poet, was born in Dayton, Ohio, on June 27, 1872. The son of former slaves, Dunbar started writing poems at the age of 6 and gave a public recital of his poetry when he was 13. His father died when he was 12, and his mother struggled to maintain a livelihood. Dunbar attended Dayton’s only high school and was the only Black in his graduating class. He was elected president of his graduating class. He sought employment in clerical work and journalism. He finally found a job as an elevator operator when his first volumes of poems, Oak and Minors (1895) and Lyrics of a Lonely Life (1896), were written. He won national recognition in 1913.

He is best known for his stories and poems in dialect, although he was competent in standard verse. He attempted to escape the racial tag completely in novels dealing primarily with white characters. His novels with white characters in a white world are The Uncalled (1898), The Love of Landry (1900), and The Fanatics (1901). Dunbar died in Dayton, Ohio, on Feb. 8 or 9, 1906.

Sources:

Encyclopedia Americana
Encyclopedia of Black America