TO RECALL FACTS ABOUT AFRO-AMERICAN POETS.
TO INCREASE READING COMPREHENSION AND VOCABULARY BUILDING.
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR (1872-1906), was the first black poet who became well known throughout the United States. Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1872, Dunbar started writing poems at age 6. He was the only black in his high school class, but his teachers saw his talent. They encouraged him to write poems. He could not afford to go to college. newspaper would not hire him because of his race. So, Dunbar worked as an elevator operator and wrote poems in his spare time.
Dunbar paid $125 to have a book of his poems printed. He sold copies to passengers on his elevator. Some of them helped him to bring out a second book. A famous white writer, William Dean Howells, saw the book and praised it in his magazine. Soon Dunbar’s work became known throughout the country. Besides his poems, he wrote songs, novels, and short stories. He traveled the country, giving readings from his work.
Dunbar’s life was tragically short. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 33. Today, one of the largest high schools in Dayton, Ohio, is named after him. Here is one of Dunbar’s poems.
We Wear The Mask
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheek and shades our
eyes,—etc . . .
guile—deceit, cunning myriad—many subtleties—hidden meanings