Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was born in Dayton, Ohio, where he attended high school as the only African-American enrolled. A gifted student, he was president of his class, as well as editor of the school newspaper and president of the literary society. He started writing poetry as a young child, and it was in that field where he gained his principal place in American literature. Dunbar was, in fact, the first African-American to gain significant acceptance as a poet.
In 1898, he married poet Alice Ruth Moore, but their relationship was stormy, partly because of his growing dependence on alcohol (beginning when his doctor urged him to drink in order to find relief from his tuberculosis).
Dunbar was associated with some of the most important and famous people of his time, including his former classmates and lifelong friends Orville and Wilbur Wright and the two most prominent African-Americans then living-Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. In addition, he received a ceremonial sword from President Theodore Roosevelt.
The works of Paul Laurence Dunbar include numerous volumes of poetry and five novels. His ill-health, however, led to an early death at the age of thirty-three.