Dialect poems by one of the nineteenth century's most talented African American lyricists
Paul Laurence Dunbar was "the most promising young colored man" in nineteenth-century America, according to Frederick Douglass, and subsequently one of the most controversial. His plantation lyrics, written while he was an elevator boy in Ohio, established Dunbar as the premier writer of dialect poetry and garnered him international recognition. More than a vernacular lyricist, Dunbar was also a master of classical poetic forms, who helped demonstrate to post–Civil War America that literary genius did not reside solely in artists of European descent. William Dean Howells called Dunbar's dialect poems "evidence of the essential unity of the human race, which does not think or feel black in one and white in another, but humanly in all."
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