Paul Laurence Dunbar

June 27,1872 - February 9,1906
Dayton Ohio


Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in Dayton Ohio. He was born to parents that had escaped from slavery. His Father served in the American Civil War. Dunbar went to high school at Dayton Central High School, where he was an active student. During high school he was class president and editor of the school newspaper. He was also president of the school literary society. Dunbar started the first African-American newsletter in Dayton.
Dunbar wrote his first poem at the age of six.His first published poem was in the newspaper from his high school.The Wright Brothers later invested in the Dayton Tattler,which was a newspaper aimed at the black community, and edited and published by Dunbar. His first collection of poetry was published in 1892. After his first two books were combined as Lyrics of Lowly Life Dunbar started on a career of international literary fame.He wrote a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, five novels, and a play.

Sample Poem:

THE air is dark, the sky is gray,
The misty shadows come and go,
And here within my dusky room
Each chair looks ghostly in the gloom.
Outside the rain falls cold and slow —
Half-stinging drops, half-blinding spray.
Each slightest sound is magnified,
For drowsy quiet holds her reign;
The burnt stick in the fireplace breaks,
The nodding cat with start awakes,
And then to sleep drops off again,
Unheeding Towser at her side.
I look far out across the lawn,
Where huddled stand the silly sheep;
My work lies idle at my hands,
My thoughts fly out like scattered strands
Of thread, and on the verge of sleep—
Still half awake — I dream and yawn.
What spirits rise before my eyes!
How various of kind and form!
Sweet memories of days long past,
The dreams of youth that could not last,
Each smiling calm, each raging storm,
That swept across my early skies.
Half seen, the bare, gaunt-fingered boughs
Before my window sweep and sway,
And chafe in tortures of unrest.
My chin sinks down upon my breast;
I cannot work on such a day,
But only sit and dream and drowse.