Paul Laurence Dunbar's Life

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By: Madeleine Hollenbeck

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  • Paul Laurence Dunbar was born on June 27th, 1872 in Dayton, Ohio. His parents, Joshua and Matilda were freed slaves from Kentucky but they separated shortly after his birth.
  • In high school when Paul was 14 he had poems published in the Dayton Herald. He was the only African-American student in his school.
  • Even though Paul was a really good student he couldn't afford to go to college and took a job as a elevator operator. However in 1892 he was offered to read his poems at the Western Association of Writers. In 1893 he self published a collection called Oak and Ivy. He sold his book for a dollar to people who rode his elevator.
  • Paul moved to Chicago and was looking for work at the first World Fair. Frederick Douglass found Paul a job as a clerk. In 1895 a lot of his work was published in newspapers. He also published another collection called Majors and Minors.
  • The writer William Dean Howells gave a good review to the poems Paul wrote in Harper’s Weekly. This helped give Paul international acclaim. In 1897 he went on a six-month reading tour of England. He wrote Lyrics and Lowly Life in 1896, and brought the collection with him.
  • When Paul came back to America he received a clerkship at The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. He married Alice Ruth Moore. he wrote a lot in Washington: a collection called Folks from Dixie, a book titled The Uncalled, and two more collections of poems, Lyrics of the Hearthside, and Poems of Cabin and Field. Sadly he died of tuberculosis on February 9th, 1906 at 33.
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