Celebrating Black History Month and Paul Laurence Dunbar

By Patricia Meinking

The Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 edition of the Dayton Daily News carried an article about Paul Laurence Dunbar, born in Dayton and the first African-American poet to achieve national recognition. Today the anniversary of Dunbar’s death will be commemorated at Woodland Cemetery. Yes, his grave is located in Woodland Cemetery!

As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s recall the great achievements made by Dunbar and the Black population. The poem below was extracted from the DDN article. However, you don’t have to stop here. Come to the library to find the many books you can read about Dunbar.

We Wear the Mask
By Paul Laurence Dunbar 

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,-
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties,
Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee form tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Patricia Meinking
University Libraries

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