Happy 149th birthday to Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Dunbar 150 project was created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Dayton’s own critically acclaimed African American poet and author, Paul Laurence Dunbar’s birth.
Caption
The Dunbar 150 project was created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Dayton’s own critically acclaimed African American poet and author, Paul Laurence Dunbar’s birth.

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

The Dunbar 150 project will have events and activities to commemorate the poet’s birth

Blow out the candles and help celebrate poet Paul Laurence Dunbar in a multi-year celebration.

Two days of activities are planned next weekend to commemorate the poet’s 149th birthday.

The events are part of the Dunbar 150 project — public events and activities leading up to the 150th anniversary of the critically acclaimed African-American poet and author’s birth.

The Dunbar 150 project, a multi-year celebration, was created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Dayton’s own critically acclaimed African American poet and author, Paul Laurence Dunbar’s birth.  LISA POWELL / STAFF
Caption
The Dunbar 150 project, a multi-year celebration, was created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Dayton’s own critically acclaimed African American poet and author, Paul Laurence Dunbar’s birth. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Dunbar’s literary works created a foundation for poets and writers for more than a century, said Brad Sauls, the Dunbar 150 project coordinator and a ranger at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

The goal of the Dunbar 150 project is to share the poet’s inspiration.

“He was always a champion of the people,” Sauls said. “He wanted people to be treated fairly and justly. He left a legacy of love.”

ExplorePoet’s shrine: Historic Paul Laurence Dunbar home reopens to the public

There are three free events planned next weekend.

Arts in the Park will be held Saturday, June 26 from noon until 4 p.m. at Oak & Ivy Park, 700 Anderson-Goodrich Ct., in the historic Wright-Dunbar neighborhood.

A cabinet card portrait of author Paul Laurence Dunbar as a young man in 1890. Dunbar was born in Dayton in 1872 to former slaves and was the first African American poet to receive critical acclaim for his work. He died in Dayton Feb. 9, 1906. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION
Caption
A cabinet card portrait of author Paul Laurence Dunbar as a young man in 1890. Dunbar was born in Dayton in 1872 to former slaves and was the first African American poet to receive critical acclaim for his work. He died in Dayton Feb. 9, 1906. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION

The family-friendly Dunbar-themed event will have painting stations, live music, a sidewalk chalk area, food trucks, a selfie station with a Dunbar cut-out and National Park ranger-led interpretive programs about the poet and his life.

Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum will host a flag ceremony at Dunbar’s gravesite at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, June 27 — Dunbar’s 149th birthday.

ExploreJust as he left it, Dunbar house a frozen view of poet’s treasures

The Paul Laurence Dunbar High School flag will be hoisted over the gravesite followed by a public program.

Organizers hope the flag raising becomes a nationwide event for schools named after Dunbar. The school can send their unique flags to Woodland Cemetery where they will be flown over the gravesite and mailed back with a photograph and certificate of authenticity.

A printed broadside announcement of a recital given by Paul Laurence Dunbar and Joseph H. Douglass at Fitzgerald’s Auditorium, Atlantic City, New Jersey, on July 9, 1901. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION
Caption
A printed broadside announcement of a recital given by Paul Laurence Dunbar and Joseph H. Douglass at Fitzgerald’s Auditorium, Atlantic City, New Jersey, on July 9, 1901. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION

“It’s a way to get schools and students involved with learning more about his legacy,” Sauls said.

Later that day, a birthday celebration will be held at the Paul Laurence Dunbar Visitor Center and House, 219 N. Paul Laurence Dunbar St., from noon until 3 p.m.

The house will be transformed into a living museum. There will be an actor portraying Dunbar on site, as well as a poetry recitation, live music from University of Dayton students and tours of the home.

Birthday cake and food and beverages will be given out at the visitors center while supplies last.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton is a museum to the poet. In 1936 it became the first state memorial to honor an African American. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Caption
The Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton is a museum to the poet. In 1936 it became the first state memorial to honor an African American. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The Dunbar 150 project is a partnership with the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, Planned2Give, the Dayton Metro Library, University of Dayton, Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum and the Paul Laurence Dunbar chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

In celebration of Dunbar’s 150th birthday, an event will be held at the Victoria Theatre on Saturday, June 25, 2022. The program will feature recitations of Dunbar’s works by several world-renowned poets including Nikki Giovanni, University of Dayton professor of history (emeritus), Dr. Herbert Woodward Martin and LaVerne Sci, a local Dunbar historian.

To learn more about upcoming Dunbar 150 events check the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park website or follow the Facebook page.

About the Author