Time Travel

By Geronimo Redstone

Paul Laurence Dunbar Ohio’s Bridge to 19th Century Britain

 Nineteenth-century Ohio, specifically the city of Dayton, blessed the world with two creative talents. Count as one the duo of the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, who pioneered the field of modern aviation that ultimately united continents.

Nineteenth-century Ohio, specifically the city of Dayton, blessed the world with two creative talents. Count as one the duo of the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, who pioneered the field of modern aviation that ultimately united continents. The other talent was their equally-brilliant classmate at Dayton’s Central High School. He was the literary virtuoso who ultimately would become known to the USA and the United Kingdom as Paul Laurence Dunbar. 

Not bad for a son born in 1872 of two former Kentucky slaves.

Dunbar was the only African-American at Central High, yet the aviation inventors befriended him — the bigotry of that era, notwithstanding. Dunbar tutored Orville in writing and literature. Orville reciprocated in math and science. And Dunbar would hone his writing prowess and leadership skills as president of the school’s literary society and editor of its newspaper. 

Again, please note that he was the only black at Central High in a post-Reconstruction America.

Thwarted, after graduation, in his attempts to become a journalist, Dunbar would direct his energies to self-publishing his first book of poems. However, since racial prejudice prevented him from obtaining employment equal to his skills, he was forced to settle for a job operating an elevator cab. Nonetheless, adaptable and as inventive as the Wright Brothers, he used that opportunity to sell copies of his book to his passengers while he ferried them floor-to-floor within that downtown office building.

But selling that initial print run was not enough. Determined to be a writer whose voice would be heard, Dunbar won support from the legendary Frederick Douglass. That led to an opportunity to read his striking lyrics at the World Columbian Exposition of 1893.  And that event, a world’s fair staged in Chicago with visitors from some forty-six nations, became a coming out party for American exceptionalism — as well as Dunbar’s.

Approximately three years later, Paul Laurence would catch the attention of the most prominent literary critic of that era, William Dean Howells. Howell’s influence translated into a publishing deal for Dunbar’s second book of poetry, Lyrics of Lowly Life. The stage was set. The Ohio bard, who previously endured the limiting ups and down of working an elevator shaft, found his audience. He became the first black poet and novelist to achieve both national and international prominence. 

Almost 100 years earlier, the poetess Philip Wheatley made history as the first published black poet in America. However, Ohio’s native son would become the first to garner an international following. This international man from the Buckeye State would soon be destined for a reading tour in Britain.

 

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Chris Broussard is a world renowned Fox Sports Analyst with an impressive resume 
but, most importantly, he’s a devout Christian, a strong man of God.