Interesting Facts

What to know about the site:

Born in Dayton, Ohio on June 27, 1872 to parents who were former slaves, Dunbar grew up in a household that struggled financially, especially after his parents separated when he was two years old. Dunbar attended Dayton public schools and was the only African-American student during the years he attended Dayton's Central High School where he was both the editor of the school newspaper and class president, as well as the president of the school literary society. Also in high school, Dunbar became friends with Orville and Wilbur Wright, who helped Dunbar build a bicycle. The three men also published Dayton’s first African American newspaper, The Tattler, together for a brief time.

From 1890 to 1910, Dunbar became recognized as one of the great poets of his day while he continued to work as an elevator operator. He published his first collection of poetry, Oak and Ivy, in 1892. In 1895, he moved to Toledo, Ohio, where he published his second collection, Majors and Minors. His poetry had made him an international success and in 1897 Dunbar traveled to Europe holding readings and visiting literary societies. When Dunbar returned from Europe, he briefly took a position at the Library Congress, but he had to resign due to health problems brought on by tuberculosis. He continued to write until his untimely death due to tuberculosis on February 9, 1906. His mother, Matilda remained in the house until her death in 1934.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar House is an Italianate turn-of-the-century structure and the final home of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. It exhibits his literary treasures, many of his personal items and his family's furnishings. Among items on display are Dunbar's bicycle built by the Wright brothers; the desk and chair where the poet composed much of his work; his collection of Native American art; and a ceremonial sword presented to Dunbar by President Theodore Roosevelt. As a result of a 2002-2003 capital improvement project, the Dunbar has been completely renovated and restored to furnishings and wallpapers common, and some instances exactly, of the time period when Paul and his mother Matilda lived in the house. A new visitor center was also constructed on site, containing interpretive panels chronicling Dunbar's life.