Faculty Lecture by Professor Gene Jarrett
'I am Entirely White!': The Life and Times of Paul Laurence Dunbar in Late Victorian England
This lecture narrates the journey of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first professional African American writer born after slavery, through parts of England during the first half of 1897. Newly engaged to aspiring poet Alice Ruth Moore, Dunbar reflects on the implications of their brief but already tumultuous courtship, but also on how his life and literature may be forever changed after they marry. He also absorbs the sights and sounds of England, where he encounters fellow writers, artists, and activists; where the reasons for his commercial rise crystallize in his mind and alternately inspire and unsettle him; and where he, as an African American young man, learns to distinguish between the privileges of his tour abroad versus those hitherto denied him during his life in the United States. The lecture is an excerpt of a comprehensive biography of the literature, life, and times of Dunbar from his birth in 1872 to his death in 1906.