Paul Laurence Dunbar, who died over 100 years ago, is considered the most important African American writer in U.S. history.
We chose to include excerpts of his work in this exhibition as a reminder of the racism, structural inequality, and incivility that African American men have always faced, and continue to endure in American society.
Dunbar’s popularity was such that he was able to earn a living from his commercial writing, probably the first African American to do so. Notably, his national and international renown came in spite of both formal structures and informal norms that shaped the trajectory of his career. Dunbar’s voice, considered alongside the voices of the men featured in this exhibition, demands that we do more to elevate the experience, dignity, and contributions of African American men in our community.
– Jennifer Speed, Ph.D