Life of Paul Dunbar

Essay by cheetah3.0Junior High, 8th grade March 2004

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Paul Laurence Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872 in Dayton, Ohio. While Dunbar was not the first African American poet and writer, he was the first to gain such respect and to be accepted by both white and black audiences. Dunbar attended schools with many whites. So many of his friends were white, and most of them friends with Dunbar to his death. The Wright brothers were among Dunbar's friends. They not only operated a bicycle shop but also a successful printing business. Orville helped Paul print a newspaper for the black community known as the Dayton Tattler, near the end of 1890. They were only able to print three issues before the newspaper was destroyed due to the fact it made no money. Dunbar soon learned that it would be difficult to further his writing ambitions by targeting black readers only.

Dunbar wrote his poetry, short stories, and plays in both dialect verse and literary English.

He also worked with the African American composer Will Marion Cook to write musicals. Due to the economics of his day he targeted mainly white audiences and had a large readership among them. He was also popular and well-respected among black readers. Dunbar came under criticism for perpetuating stereotypes among his white readers. However what one must look for in Dunbar's writings are ways in which Dunbar could keep his larger white audiences while at the same time offering accurate portrayals of African American life than white writers who wrote poetry using the same dialect verse.

An invitation to recite at the 1893 World's Fair introduced him to Frederick Douglass, who was in charge of the Haitian exhibit. Douglass gave Dunbar a job and later said that he considered Dunbar to be "the most promising young colored man in America." Dr. H.