Alice Dunbar-Nelson was significant in the African American world of her time for many reasons: She was a teacher, club woman, political activist, feminist, poet, short-story writer, and essayist. She was also briefly married to Paul Laurence Dunbar, an internationally known African American poet.
Alice Dunbar-Nelson was born Alice Ruth Moore in New Orleans, Louisiana, July 19, 1875. Educated at Straight University (now Dillard University) in New Orleans, she graduated in 1892. She stayed in New Orleans to teach until she accepted a teaching position in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of twenty, while still living in New Orleans, Dunbar-Nelson published Violets, and Other Tales under her birth name. The work consists of poems, stories, sketches, and essays.
In 1899 Dunbar-Nelson published her second book, The Goodness of St. Rocque, and Other Stories. The volume, the first collection of short stories published by an African American woman, includes no African American characters. The stories are filled with the type of “local color” descriptions that were popular at the time and are peopled with Cajuns and Creoles of mixed ancestry.
A photograph accompanying one of her sketches published in the Monthly Review attracted the attention of acclaimed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. They began a correspondence that ended with their marriage in New York on March 6, 1898, over her family’s objections. In January, 1902, however, the couple separated.
After her separation from Dunbar, Dunbar-Nelson moved to Delaware, where she continued teaching until 1920. In Delaware she compiled and edited Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence: The Best Speeches Delivered by the...
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