Dayton Walk of Fame: Paul Laurence Dunbar

PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

(1872-1906)

Claim to fame: The first internationally renowned African-American poet and writer.

Interesting fact: Although both of Mr. Dunbar’s parents were illiterate, his mother strongly encouraged him to get an education.

Fun fact: Dunbar’s most famous poem contained a line reading “I know why the caged bird sings,” which is the title of Maya Angelou’s most famous work.

Early accomplishments: He became the president of the literary society at Dayton Central High School and the editor of the school paper. After graduation, he collaborated with his schoolmate Orville Wright on the Dayton Tattler, a black neighborhood newspaper printed by the Wright brothers on their West Third Street presses.

His legacy: Over his tragically short lifetime (he died at age 33), Dunbar produced novels, plays, short stories, newspaper articles, essays and over 600 poems. Dunbar’s work contributed to a growing social consciousness and cultural identity for African-Americans of the period. He is associated with the early civil rights leaders W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. Dunbar became a major inspiration for Harlem Renaissance authors like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and modern famous African-American writers including Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, both of whom credited Dunbar as an inspiration.

Inducted: 1996

How to visit the Walk of Fame: See it in person on West Third Street in Dayton between Broadway and Shannon.

How to visit the Dunbar House: Schedule a tour through Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton

Source: Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame, Wright Dunbar Inc., Dayton History

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