In recognition of Black History Month and as part of the University Libraries’ 150th Paul Laurence Dunbar Birthday Celebration Series, the Libraries will present, Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond the Mask, a documentary on the life and legacy of the first African American to achieve national fame as a writer. This presentation will be held on Thursday, February 17, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. in Room 441 Dunbar Library and on Webex.
Born to former slaves in Dayton, Ohio, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), is best remembered for his poem, “We Wear the Mask” and for lines from “Sympathy” that became the title of Maya Angelou’s autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Dunbar’s story is also the story of the African American experience around the turn of the century. The man abolitionist Frederick Douglass called “The most promising young colored man in America” wrote widely published essays critical of Jim Crow laws, lynching and what was commonly called “The Negro Problem”. Yet, to earn a living, Dunbar also wrote poems and stories utilizing “Plantation dialect” and composed songs for Broadway shows that bordered on minstrelsy.
The documentary also tells the story of Dunbar’s boyhood friendship with the Wright Brothers and interweaves contemporary segments on artists and musicians who perpetuate Dunbar’s legacy through their own art.
Frederick Lewis, the program’s writer and director will be on had to introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion. Lewis is a professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies at Ohio University.
More than eight years in the making, “Beyond the Mask” received support from Ohio Humanities and major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is a production of the Central Region Humanities Center based at Ohio University.
Frederick Lewis can be reached at 740-274-1650 or [email protected].
This event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Libraries. Online registration is required. Contact [email protected] for more information about this and other events honoring the 150th anniversary of Paul Laurence’s birth.