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The Influential Work of Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

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The Influential Work of Paul Laurence Dunbar


Many writers begin writing and showing literary talent when they are young. Paul Laurence Dunbar, born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, was already editor of a newspaper and had had two of his poems published in the local newspaper before he’d graduated from high school. His classmate, Orville Wright, printed The Tattler which Dunbar edited and published for the local African American community. After graduating from high school, he was forced to get a job as an elevator operator which allowed him spare time for writing. He finally gained recognition outside of Dayton when, in 1892, he was invited to address the Western Association of Writers and met James Newton Matthews who praised his work in a letter to an Illinois newspaper. In 1892, he decided to publish his first book of poems entitled Oak and Ivy and four years later his second book of poems Majors and Minors was published. People began to see him as a symbol for his race, and he was thought of artistically as “a happy-go-lucky, singing, shuffling, banjo-picking being… in a log cabin amid fields of cotton” (Dunbar, AAW 2). Dunbar’s poems, written alternately in literary and dialect English, are about love, death, music, laughter, human frailty, and though Dunbar tried to mute themes of social protest, social commentary on racial themes is present in his poetry.
After Dunbar published Majors and Minors he published Lyrics of a Lowly Life and then left America for a six month reading tour in England. When he returned in 1897, he became a clerk at the library of Congress in Washington D.C. and then published his first collection of short stories entitled Folks From Dixie, in 1898. Later, his first novel, the Uncalled was publis...


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...ngton, TX. 10 Dec. 2009.

"Paul Laurence Dunbar." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit; Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Bowie High School, Arlington TX. 19 Nov. 2009.

“Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Legacy of Language. (12:00-1.00 PM)(Broadcast transcript)” Weekend Edition Sunday. National Public Radio, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Gale. Bowie High School, Arlington, TX. 9 Dec. 2009.

Nettles Rauch, Esther. “Paul Laurence Dunbar”. African American Writers. Literature Resource Center. Gale. Bowie High School, Arlington, TX. 17 Nov. 2009.


Turner, Darwin T. “Paul Laurence Dunbar: The Rejected Symbol.” DISCovering Authors. Student Resource Center-Gold. Gale. Bowie High School, Arlington, TX. 17 Nov. 2009.











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