: Title page from the song Joggin Erlong by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Paul Lawrence Dunbar was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1872 to Matilda and Joshua Dunbar, who were both former slaves. He went to Dayton High School, where he was the only African American in his class. He was very successful in his studies and was also the editor of the school paper. He edited the newspaper “The Tattler,” a newspaper aimed at the African American community, which was started by Orville Wright, a classmate.
After high school Dunbar struggled to get his work published, so he began working as an elevator operator where he would read his poems to his passengers. He was invited to read his works at the Western Association of Writers in 1892 thanks to a recommendation from a former teacher, and the positive response encouraged him to publish his first book. In 1893 he published “Oak and Ivy” out of his own pocket and began selling it out of the elevator he worked in. His second book “Majors to Minors,” was published in 1895. The “major” poems in the book were written in standard English, while the “minor” poems were in dialect. This book caught the attention of William Dean Howells, editor of Harper’s Weekly. He wrote a review of Dunbar’s book which helped bring Dunbar national recognition. His third anthology was titled “Lyrics of a Lonely Life” which included an introduction by Howells.
Joggin Erlong was published for the first time in 1906, and the song is written in dialect. Each stanza ends with “But des’ keep on a–joggin’ wid a little bit o’ song, De mo’n is allus brightah w’en de night’s been long.” It was originally published as a poem and was later adapted to music.
Dunbar was married to Alice Ruth Moore in 1898, a successful writer. The following year he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which doctors unsuccessfully attempted to cure with alcohol. Though Dunbar still wrote prolifically, the alcoholism brought on by his disease troubled his marriage and Moore left him in 1902. Due to deteriorating health, Dunbar moved home with his mother. He died in 1906 at the age of 33.
Dunbar is recognized as one of the great poets of the twentieth century. His poetry influenced later authors such as Langston Hughes and other writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Wright State University has renamed their library the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library. View on Ohio Memory.
: AL07658 Subjects
: Dunbar, Paul Laurence, 1872-1906; Poets; African American poets; African American Ohioans Places
: Joggin Erlong illustration