The first black writer of the post-Civil War era of America, Paul Laurence Dunbar was able to reach national prominence and acceptance by both the black and the white communities, however, he encountered some setbacks along the way to his success. Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1872 to former slaves, Paul was spared racial discrimination in his youth. For as the only black in his senior class in high school, he was elected class president.
- But, after he graduated, when Dunbar sought employment, he met with racial prejudice as he was denied a job doing clerical work in a law office as well as other positions. Finally, he accepted a job as an elevator operator.
- While he worked on the elevator by day, Dunbar wrote at night and had some of his work published in newspapers. However, he was rejected by others. The Dayton Tatler, for example, suggested that he was writing for a black audience, not its.
- Then, there were those whites who perferred poems that reinforced the stereotypes of happy blacks living in harmony on Southern plantations.
- Dunbar struggled within himself as he felt the pull to produce for the white audience, his concern for the plight of his fellow African-American never left him. Thus, after the 1890's he turned to themes of protest, and Dunbar became the voice of his people.
- Dunbar's early recognition as a poet tended to obscure consideration of him as an author in other literary areas. For instance, the public paid little attention to his short stories and novels.