Paul Laurence Dubar: An Exhibit Celebrating 150 Years of Excellence

Interactive exhibit honors Dayton native and African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Photo of exhibit courtesy of Miller.

Tori Miller | Staff Writer

In order to help celebrate Black History Month, Roesch Library has been hosting an interactive exhibit in order to honor famous writer Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Born in 1872, Dunbar was a Dayton native and the first African American to gain national recognition as a poet. Throughout his scholarly career, Dunbar was well known for his ability to write inspiring short stories, novels, librettos, plays, songs, essays and poetry. 

To recognize his influential pieces of literature and contribution to the Dayton community, Roesch Library decided to commemorate the 150 year anniversary of his birth by teaching the UD student body about his legacy. The Dunbar Exhibit was an online interactive AVIATE event throughout February and is still accessible as an in-person experience located in the Stuart and Mimi Rose Gallery on the first floor of Roesch Library. 

The main library employees behind the Dunbar project were Kristina Schulz, a university archivist who oversees archives and rare book collections, and Joan Milligan, a special collections cataloger for University Libraries. 

“He was an engaging voice at a time when most African Americans were silenced,” said Joan Milligan. “Despite the poverty of his childhood he worked to further his education and enter an elite profession. He was the first African American man to earn his living by writing.”

Having this exhibit also allows Roesch Library to display some of Dunbar’s early editions, many of which are first editions from the 20th century and come from the Victor and Irene Jacobs Collection in University Archives and Special Collections. 

Selecting Paul Laurence Dunbar as the library’s exhibit centerfold allows students to connect to a Daytonian that leads by example through his writing while using that writing to overcome racial obstacles for the time period. Many courses on campus have used this exhibit as a hands-on learning experience and a way to connect to the greater Dayton community. 

In the future, Roesch Library will continue to share about successful Dayton authors through interactive exhibits: The next highlighted author will be Erma Bombeck. 

For more information about Paul Laurence Dunbar’s life and works visit: university website

Or visit the first floor of Roesch Library until March 4th, 2022. 

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