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Paul Lawrence Dunbar was the first important African American Poet in American Literature and the first poet to write of both a black and white audience in a time when efforts were being made to re-establish slavery He was also the first African-American poet to garner national critical acclaim43 During his short lifetime Dunbar became known as the poet laureate of African Americans Columbus 45 Paul Lawrence Dunbar was born in Dayton Ohio in 1872 to two freed slaves Both of Dunbars parents who had been born slaves had a love for literature His father Joshua had escaped slavery moved to Canada and returned to fight in the Civil War It was after the war that he met and married Dunbars mother Matilda Matilda and Joshua had two children before he passed away in 1874 some sources say they may have been divorced Dunbar had written his first poem when he was seven years old It was through his mother Matilda that Dunbar earned a love for literature for she would teach her children the art of songs and storytelling Draper 622 He was an excellent well-behaved and diligent student and graduated from high school with honors in 1891 Even though he was the only African American in the school he was elected class president and delivered the classs graduation poem Harris 107 Dunbars initial open reading was on his birthday in 1892 A past teacher of his had given him the opportunity to give the convivial address to the Western Association of Writers when they gathered in Dayton Ohio It was then that Dunbar met and became friends with James Newton Matthews who wrote to a paper in Illinois admiring Dunbars work The letter was later reprinted in several papers across the country giving Dunbar local attention Columbus 32 Since the death of his father seven years before he had to work to support himself and his mother After his graduation he could
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