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Paul Laurence Dunbar Research

The literary works of Paul Laurence Dunbar

University of Dayton scholars are preserving the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar by sharing his life and poetry on these pages, including performances that reanimate the poet's words.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American to gain national eminence as a poet. Born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio, he was the son of ex-slaves and classmate to Orville Wright of aviation fame.

Although he lived to be only 33 years old, Dunbar was prolific, writing short stories, novels, librettos, plays, songs and essays as well as the poetry for which he became well known. He was popular with black and white readers of his day, and his works are celebrated today by scholars and school children alike.

His style encompasses two distinct voices – the standard English of the classical poet and the evocative dialect of the turn-of-the-century black community in America. He was gifted in poetry in the same the way that Mark Twain was in prose, using dialect to convey character.

Dunbar at Dayton: His Writings

Professor Emeritus Herbert Woodward Martin brings to life the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar through performances of selected poems, recorded and preserved through the Dunbar at Dayton collection. The site, in collaboration with the University Libraries, offers the texts of many works to serve as a resource to increase awareness and consumption of his work. In addition, the Department of Music provides information about musical settings of Dunbar poems. Links to these settings are available from the Dunbar at Dayton website.

Browse the Dunbar at Dayton collection >

Dunbar Music Archive

The Dunbar Music Archive was established by Dr. Minnita Daniel-Cox in 2014. This resource is meant to increase awareness and consumption of musical settings of texts by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar the poet, author, librettist, activist, and essayist was a seminal figure in establishing a poetic voice that would influence African-American poets for generations, including those responsible for the blossoming of the Harlem Renaissance.

Visit the Dunbar Music Archive >

Contact Dr. Daniel-Cox >

In the News
Research 04.20.20
National Endowment for the Humanities awards University of Dayton nearly $100K for creation of Paul Laurence Dunbar courses and archive

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the University of Dayton nearly $100,000 to develop interdisciplinary courses and create a digital archive to help preserve the legacy of Dayton native Paul Laurence Dunbar, one of the first influential black poets in American literature

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Paul Laurence Dunbar Research


300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469
Department of English
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