Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

About Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who had been slaves in Kentucky before the American Civil War, Dunbar started to write as a child and was president of his high school's literary society. He published his first poems at the age of 16 in a Dayton newspaper. Dunbar's work often dealt with themes of poverty, racism, and hardship, as well as the celebration of black culture and heritage.

"We Wear the Mask" is one of Dunbar's most famous poems, and it explores the theme of African Americans having to hide their true feelings and emotions behind a mask in order to survive in a white-dominated society. "Sympathy" is another well-known poem, in which the speaker laments the conditions of being caged like a bird, a metaphor for the oppression of African Americans.

Dunbar's writing style was characterized by his use of dialect and standard English, as well as his incorporation of African American vernacular and oral traditions. He continues to be celebrated for his contribution to African American literature and is widely regarded as one of the greatest African American poets of all time.

Suffering from tuberculosis, Dunbar died at the age of 33.

    Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

  • Invitation To Love

    in Famous Love Poems

    Come when the nights are bright with stars
    Or come when the moon is mellow;
    Come when the sun his golden bars
    Drops on the hay-field yellow.

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    • Rating 5.00
  • Sympathy

    in Famous Sad Poems

    I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
    When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
    And the river flows like a stream of glass;

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    • Rating 4.37
    • Poem of the Day
    Featured Shared Story

    If Paul Laurence Dunbar were still here on earth, I'd tell him how wonderful those words were in his poem called Sympathy. A bird needs to feel the wind beneath its wings, for the freedom...

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  • We Wear The Mask

    in Famous Sad Poems

    We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

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    Featured Shared Story

    A wonderful poem Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote many years ago, after slavery was abolished.
    How it must have hurt to know his parents had been slaves...

    Imagine the pain that slavery...

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