Cover image for In his own voice : the dramatic and other uncollected works of Paul Laurence Dunbar
In his own voice : the dramatic and other uncollected works of Paul Laurence Dunbar
Dunbar, Paul Laurence, 1872-1906.
Publication Information:
Athens : Ohio University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxviii, 315 pages ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS1556 .A4 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS1556 .A4 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Paul Laurence Dunbar, introduced to the American public by William Dean Howells, was the first native-born African American poet to achieve national and international fame. While there have been many valuable editions of his works over time, gaps have developed when manuscripts were lost or access to uncollected works became difficult.

In His Own Voice brings together previously upublished and uncollected short stories, essays, and poems. This volume also establishes Dunbar's reputation as a dramatist who mastered standard English conventions and used dialect in musical comedy for ironic effects.

In His Own Voice collects more than seventy-five works in six genres. Featured are the previously unpublished play Herrick and two one-act plays, largely ignored for a century, that demonstrate Dunbar's subversion of the minstrel tradition. This generous expansion of the canon also includes a short story never before published.

Herbert Woodward Martin, renowned for his live portrayal of Dunbar, and Ronald Primeau provide a literary and historical context for this previously untreated material, firmly securing the reputation of an important American voice.

Author Notes

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in June 27, 1872 in Dayton, Ohio. He was the son of ex-slaves and attended school at Dayton Central High School, the only African-American in his class. Dunbar was a member of the debating society, editor of the school paper and president of the school's literary society. He also wrote for Dayton community newspapers. He worked as an elevator operator in Dayton's Callahan Building until he established himself locally and nationally as a writer. He published an African-American newsletter in Dayton, the Dayton Tattler, with help from the Wright brothers.

Dunbar was the first African-American to gain national eminence as a poet. Oak and Ivy, his first collection, was published in 1892. As his book gained fame, Dunbar was invited to recite at the World's Fair, in 1893 where he met Frederick Douglass. Dunbar's second book, Majors and Minors, propelled him to national fame. A New York publishing firm, Dodd Mead and Co., combined Dunbar's first two books and published them as Lyrics of a Lowly Life. Dunbar then took a job at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He found the work tiresome, however, and the library's dust contributed to his worsening case of tuberculosis. He worked there for only a year before quitting to write and recite full time.

Depression and declining health drove him to drink, which further damaged his health. He continued to write, however. He ultimately produced 12 books of poetry, four books of short stories, a play and five novels. His work appeared in Harper's Weekly, the Sunday Evening Post, the Denver Post, Current Literature and a number of other magazines and journals. He died there on Feb. 9, 1906 at the age of 33.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Because of his use of black southern dialect and the embarrassment it has engendered among black intellectuals since the Harlem Renaissance, Dunbar--the most famous black poet of his time--has never enjoyed the modern popularity of other black poets. This collection, which includes many works never before published, shows the breadth and depth of his talent and his subtle genius for using dialect and other cultural signifiers to show the hypocrisy of white society and, despite the restrictions imposed by racism, the creativity of African Americans. Dunbar produced a prodigious body of work, including plays, essays, poems, short stories, and songs. He attempted to avoid the minstrel style favored by whites while retaining the authenticity of black southern life. The collection of 76 works is divided into sections on dramatic pieces, essays, short stories, and poems, each preceded by an introduction that places Dunbar and his work in historical and artistic contexts. The collection adds to Dunbar's reputation as an important forerunner of black American poetry. --Vanessa Bush

Choice Review

During his lifetime (1872-1906), Dunbar was the most famous African American writer in the world, publishing several collections of poetry, a novel, a short story collection, and a Broadway musical and receiving praise from William Dean Howells. An important precursor to the later flourishing of arts in the Harlem Renaissance, Dunbar has been appreciated most for his poetry and his masterful use of dialect. This edition of uncollected works greatly expands the Dunbar canon. The volume contains three musicals, 41 poems, 15 essays, seven short stories (one, "Ole Conju'in Joe," never before published), six songs, two short plays, and most notably an unpublished play, Herrick. Notable in Dunbar's artistic oeuvre because it does not address Dunbar's usual interest in black characters or black dialect, Herrick demonstrates Dunbar's ability to write in the highly refined style of an 18th-century English comedy of manners. Dunbar wrote the play, which is based loosely on the life of poet Robert Herrick and his attempts to win the Lady Cynthia, when he was in England and preparing to marry Alice Moore. Martin and Primeau's chronology of Dunbar's life, their bibliography, and their introduction to the individual sections (each based on a genre) are extremely useful. All collections of American literature; all levels. D. J. Rosenthal John Carroll University

Table of Contents

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Forewordp. xi
Prefacep. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
General Introductionp. xix
A Brief Dunbar Chronologyp. xxvii
Part 1 Dramatic Pieces
Introduction to the Dramatic Piecesp. 3
Herrickp. 17
The Gambler's Wifep. 84
The Island of Tanawanap. 97
Uncle Eph's Christmasp. 115
Jes Lak White Fo'ksp. 133
Dream Loversp. 145
Musical Lyrics and Fragments
From In Dahomey
Evah Dahkey Is a Kingp. 155
Good Evenin'p. 157
On Emancipation Dayp. 158
Returned: Empty and So Silent Now the Old Cabin Standsp. 159
From Clorindy, or the Origin of the Cakewalk
The Hottest Coon in Dixiep. 160
Who Dat Say Chicken in dis Crowdp. 161
Part 2 Essays
Introduction to the Essaysp. 165
Dickens and Thackerayp. 169
December 13, 1890p. 171
Of Negro Journalsp. 172
England as Seen by a Black Manp. 176
Our New Madnessp. 181
Negro Musicp. 183
The Tuskegee Meetingp. 186
Negro Life in Washingtonp. 188
Higher Educationp. 193
Negro Society in Washingtonp. 195
Dunbar Did Not Plagiarizep. 202
The Leader of His Racep. 203
Negro in Literaturep. 205
Booker T. Washingtonp. 208
Sunshine at Jackson Parkp. 209
Part 3 Short Stories
Introduction to the Short Storiesp. 215
Ole Conju'in Joep. 219
His Bride of the Tombp. 224
The Tenderfootp. 228
Little Billyp. 233
Jimmy Weedon's Contretemptsp. 238
The Emancipation of Evalina Jonesp. 243
A Prophesy of Fatep. 250
Part 4 Poems
Introduction to the Poemsp. 259
Sold--A C. H. S. Episodep. 265
Happy! Happy! Happy!p. 266
Oh, Nop. 267
Lullaby (I)p. 268
A Rondeaup. 268
The Farm House by the Riverp. 269
Rondeau for a Lawyerp. 270
To Leila Ruthp. 271
We Crown Her Queenp. 272
The Song of the Gathererp. 274
To a Golden Girlp. 275
The Lonely Hunterp. 276
Dreams Only Dreamsp. 277
The Dreamerp. 277
Rememberedp. 277
Keeping in Touchp. 278
Trioletsp. 280
The Valsep. 281
After the Strugglep. 282
Noddin' by de Firep. 283
Darkie's Rainy Dayp. 284
Odep. 286
John Hayp. 287
Kindnessp. 288
A Toast to Daytonp. 288
(For The Palladium)p. 289
New Yorkp. 290
Kittyp. 291
A Girlp. 292
Rocking in the Old Canoep. 293
Timp. 294
The Making Upp. 295
Our Hopes and Homep. 296
The Drowsy Godp. 297
Incantation/Invocationp. 298
A Letterp. 299
A Lamentp. 300
To Miss Manie Emersonp. 301
A Brown Hairp. 302
Lullaby (II)p. 303
I Been Kissin' Yo' Picturep. 304
Bibliographyp. 307
Index of Titlesp. 313
Index to the First Lines of Poemsp. 315