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Paul Laurence Dunbar
1934 4th St. NW, LeDroit Park neighborhood, DC.
Dunbar was the first African American poet to become nationally known. His books of poems include Oak and Ivy (1892), Majors and Minors (1895), Lyrics of a Lowly Life (1896), Poems of Cabin and Field (1899), When Malindy Sings (1903), and Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow (1905). His works of fiction include The Uncalled (1898), Folks from Dixie (1898), The Strength of Gideon (1900), and The Sport of the Gods (1902). He also wrote the lyrics for In Dahomey, the first musical written and performed entirely by African Americans to appear on Broadway.
Dunbar-Nelson wrote poetry, fiction, and journalism, taught high school, and was an activist for civil rights and women's rights. Her books include Violets and Other Tales (1895), and The Goodness of St. Rocque (1899). She edited Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence (1914) and The Dunbar Speaker and Entertainer (1920). She was a regular columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier and the Washington Eagle and co-editor of the A.M.E. Review. She also served as a Mid-Atlantic Field Organizer for women's suffrage, a representative for the Woman's Committee on the Council of Defense, and was a popular speaker to a wide range of groups.
The two married in 1898 and moved to DC where Dunbar briefly took at job at the Library of Congress. In 1900, diagnosed with tuberculosis and alcoholic, he left the area to try to regain his health. He returned to DC briefly, but the pair separated in 1902 (but never divorced), and Dunbar returned to his mother's home in Dayton, OH where he died in 1906 at the age of 33. Dunbar-Nelson remained in the area, living in MD and DE but returning often to DC, where she was an active member of Georgia Douglas Johnson's literary salon. She married two more times, but always retained her eminent first husband's last name.
Dunbar is remembered locally with a DC public high school named in his honor.