Paul Laurence Dunbar

[The beautiful Dunbar Apartments in Harlem are named for Paul Laurence Dunbar. Let me mention editorially that I am mildly uncomfortable with this entry’s association of Dunbar with Thomas Nelson Page. Dunbar, in my own view, was sui generis as a poet. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia has a tendency–especially in older entries like this one–to discount the originality of African-American writers.]

“Paul Laurence Dunbar: (1872-1906) American poet. Dunbar is noted for his highly skilled use of black themes and dialect. Writing at a time when literary regionalism was in vogue, he was undoubtedly influenced by Thomas Nelson Page. Dunbar was the son of a slave, but became the most famous African-American poet of his time. He exercised a great influence on later writers. Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896) is his most famous collection. It was followed by Lyrics of the Hearthside (1899), Lyrics of Love and Laughter (1903), and Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow. He also wrote novels, including The Uncalled (1898) and The Sport of the Gods (1902).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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