Paul Laurence Dunbar
Shout out to Paul Laurence Dunbar—novelist, essayist, and poet.
Known for your exquisite depictions of Black life in the Antebellum South, you intricately provided a written perspective of the collective Black experience using African-American English. While the literary style of Black dialect produced immense acclaim and financial success for you, you frequently lamented its unjust association with an uneducated social class of people.
In collaboration with Orville Wright in 1890, you edited and published the The New Dayton Tattler—a Black newspaper in Ohio that proliferated the welfares and prosperities of Black folks at the end of the 19th century. Later, just before your passing, Orville and his brother Wilbur invented and flew the world’s first manned aircraft in 1903.
From “We Wear the Mask” to “Folks From Dixie” to “In Old Plantation Days,” your literary collection provided resistance to the oppression faced by your enslaved parents and ancestors. You claimed their voices! Through written word, I aspire to do similar, particularly for my paternal grandfather’s great grandmother, Loucendia Hunter Fleming (1853-1957). Twelve years of age when freed from slavery, Loucendia lived long enough to tell her great-great grandson, my grandfather, about her experiences on the plantation and not being permitted by law to read or write. As her progeny, I claim her voice and proudly write every day, particularly during February.
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