Dunbar, Paul Lawrence

Dunbar, Paul Lawrence

(1872–1906) poet, writer; born in Dayton, Ohio. The son of former slaves, he attended public schools, worked as an elevator operator (1891–93), and spent most of his life in Dayton. He paid to publish his first book of poems, Oak and Ivory (1893), but his second book, Majors and Minors (1895), gained him the enthusiastic support of William Dean Howells, who wrote a preface to his third volume, Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896). This led to a public for his readings and lectures, which even took him to England (1897). He continued to publish various collections of poetry, short stories, and novels, and was widely recognized as one of the first African-Americans to convert the experiences of their people into forms appreciated by the white majority.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.