Dunbar, Paul Laurence (dŭnˈbär) [key], 1872–1906, American poet and novelist, b. Dayton, Ohio. The son of former slaves, he won recognition with his Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896)—a collection of poems from his Oak and Ivy (1893) and Majors and Minors (1895). His humorous poems employing African-American folk materials and dialect were especially popular with the public, but Dunbar viewed them as a means of getting his other works published and came to despise them. Dunbar's other works include four novels, the best known of which is The Sport of the Gods (1902); four collections of short stories, notably Folks from Dixie (1898), in which he portrayed the lives of Southern blacks; and numerous song lyrics.
See his Complete Poems (1913); biographies by B. Brawley (1936, repr. 1967) and A. Gayle (1971); study by J. Martin, ed. (1974); E. Alexander, ed., Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore (2002).
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