The heart of the journal is its revelations about the meaning of being an African American woman early in the twentieth century. One insight can be gleaned from a look at the impact of Alice’s marriage to the eminent poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. During her career, Dunbar-Nelson received attention for being Dunbar’s wife and widow and not primarily for her own achievement. After Paul died and Alice remarried, she continued carrying his name to ensure the linkage with her famous husband. Perhaps Dunbar-Nelson did so partly because she was aware that, in a racist, sexist society, such a linkage could be useful. She knew that, as an African American woman, she needed as much help as she could get.
Dunbar-Nelson’s living situation also provides insight into the meaning of being an African American woman in the United States during the first three decades of the twentieth century. At the beginning, it is apparent that Dunbar-Nelson’s basic living situation is that of a woman-centered household with strong female-to-female family relationships. The core consisted of Alice, her sister Leila, their mother Patricia, and Leila’s four children, three of whom were daughters. Even though they acquired husbands and other children, these women always remained together. Dunbar-Nelson never bore any children herself, but she became the mother of two when she married widower Robert Nelson. Alice helped to rear Robert’s two children as well as Leila’s four....
(The entire section is 1137 words.)
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