Paul Laurence Dunbar has been called the first great black poet in America. He wrote not only verse but short stories and novels and lyrics during his short career before his premature death from tuberculosis at just 33.
Many of his works were written in black dialect. His first poems were published when he was just 16 in a local newspaper in Dayton. He was school friends with Orville and Wilbur Wright, whose printing company printed the first African American weekly newspaper in Dayton, which Dunbar edited.
Dunbar’s first book of short stories “Folks From Dixie” was published in 1898, the same year as his first novel “The Uncalled”. Dunbar also wrote the lyrics for the musical ” In Dahomey”, the first musical produced and performed by African Americans which successfully performed on Broadway in 1903.
Dunbar’s work went on to have a tremendous influence on writers during the Harlem Renaissance and later writers including Maya Angelou whose autobiography title “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is taken from one of Dunbar’s poems.
Born: June 27, 1872
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio, USA
Star Sign: Cancer
Died: February 9, 1906 (aged 33)
Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
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