¬†Go to the source (Black Caucus of the American Library Association)
NEW DVD COLLECTION ON POET PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR FEATURES RECITALS BY NATION‚ÄôS TOP BLACK POETS
‚ÄúPaul Laurence Dunbar is the poet laureate of the Negro race.”
— Booker T. Washington
Famous 19th Century African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar‚Äôs birthday will be celebrated with gala festivities during the weekend of June 27, 2008 at the Dunbar House in Dayton, Ohio. The national press and artists and dignitaries from all over the nation have been invited to attend. This weekend of Dunbar festivities will include a parade, dinner and a National Launch Party for several educational DVDs on Dunbar. These DVDs, known as The Paul Laurence Dunbar Collection, provide an entertaining and educational experience for poetry lovers, families and students of all ages. This DVD Collection will be a substantial educational resource for teachers and librarians all around the country.
This treasure trove of over 200 Dunbar poems and stories is important to both American Literature and African American culture. The poems are dramatically recited by the very top Dunbar storytellers and dramatic African American poets in the nation, including Nikki Giovanni, Ishmael Reed, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, California Poet Laureate Al Young, Mitch Capel, Bobby Norfolk, Awele Makeba, Charlotte Blake-Alston, Dylan Pritchett, Sr., and Oni Lasana. The production also includes commentary and analysis by some of America‚Äôs foremost Dunbar scholars. Many famous African American poets, including Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni, have frequently acknowledged their debt of gratitude to Dunbar. “There is no poet, black or non-black, who measures his achievement,” Dr. Giovanni said of Dunbar. The title of Maya Angelou‚Äôs autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, is taken in homage from a stanza of Dunbar‚Äôs famous poem ‚ÄúSympathy.‚ÄĚ Even Jimi Hendrix‚Äôs anthem song ‚ÄúPurple Haze‚ÄĚ draws its title from Dunbar‚Äôs description of the sublime autumn sky in Dunbar‚Äôs poem ‚ÄúThe Old Apple Tree.‚ÄĚ
Paul Laurence Dunbar was a most remarkable American writer. The child of slaves, Dunbar was raised in a racist and hostile America that used any means necessary to terrorize, criminalize, disenfranchise and re-enslave African Americans.
Despite the racist climate, Dunbar led an exciting and fulfilling life. He was childhood friends with Orville and Wilbur Wright. The only African American of his high school class, Dunbar was class president, editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, a member of the debate society, class poet and president of the literary society. He and Mark Twain shared the same literary agent. He was the prot√©g√© of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass said of Dunbar, ‚ÄúI regard Paul Dunbar as the most promising young colored man in America.‚ÄĚ
Dunbar toured America constantly, giving dramatized readings of his poetry. He was honored by President William McKinley and was awarded a ceremonial sword by Theodore Roosevelt. He was mentored by Frederick Douglass and praised by W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and other giants of his day. The toast of Europe, Dunbar also gave a command performance before the Queen of England. He was married to poet and civil rights activist Alice Moore Dunbar. Together they were America‚Äôs African American power couple, hosting the top Black intellectuals and notables of the era in their home in Washington, D.C.
Through his work, Paul Laurence Dunbar chronicled an African American history and experience that had been distorted by white journalists and historians. Even today Dunbar‚Äôs writings are relevant. His works provide guidance, encouragement, cautionary tales and adages that help readers of all ages to better navigate through a hostile and racist society. Dunbar‚Äôs writings provide wisdom and direction for African American culture in the same way that ‚ÄúPoor Richard‚Äôs Almanac,‚ÄĚ the ‚ÄúMother Goose Rhymes‚ÄĚ or the ‚ÄúBrothers Grimm Fairy Tales‚ÄĚ guided white culture. This is where Dunbar achieves greatness. Dunbar gives joy, with a message, to the very young and old alike with stories such as ‚ÄúA Cabin Tale,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúLittle Brown Baby‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúThe Seedling.‚ÄĚ He gives us all inspiration with poems such as ‚ÄúKeep A Song Up On De Way,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúJust Whistle A Bit‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúThe Lesson.‚ÄĚ He speaks of history in such poems as ‚ÄúW‚Äôen Dey ‚ÄėListed Colored Soldiers,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúFrederick Douglass,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe Haunted Oak,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúGoin‚Äô Back,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe Colored Soldiers,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúSympathy,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúLife‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúWe Wear the Mask.‚ÄĚ His work provides so many other wonderful glimpses of the African American experience made universal.