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Paul Laurence Dunbar, primary sources, Black history, Black poets, prominent Ohioans


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1234 4th St. NW

Washington, D.C.

Sunday, Sept. 24, 1893

Dear Paul,

How quickly the days have sped, since you and I stood together on the steps and bade each other goodbye! It seems but yesterday that I sat by your side in the Haytien Pavillion [she is referring to the Haitian Pavilion of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, where Dunbar worked in 1893 after Frederick Douglass hired him as a clerk], listening to your voice in praise or blame (more often the latter) of my humble self. Those were pleasant hours, my friend, and I shall not soon forget them.

That you have not heard from me sooner, you must attribute to lack of time, for I have been so busy with school work & that I have had no time for anything else. Then too, I have not been in the best of spirits, for death has robbed me of one of my warmest friends — an almost brother: so you see that for my tardiness there is much excuse!

What a very great honor, and rare priviledge, it is for me to be writing thus familiarly to you, to Paul Dunbar, boring him with my petty trials an occupations! A few months ago when I was reading of you, and so warmly admiring your talents and genius, I little thought that one day I should call you ‘friend.’ How little we know the good held in store for us by “The Fates,” and were I a pagan, Paul, they should be my chosen divinities, to whom I would offer continuous sacrifice.

I thought of you last night, mon ami, and tried very hard to put into action those forces or conditions by which my thoughts might reach you. It was a perfect night, and I know, had you been near, you would have put it into rhyme, for ‘twas indeed a night fit to be made into a poem.

And what have you been doing with yourself since last I saw you? — Improving time and opportunity I know. May you continue to do so, my dear Paul, and may your efforts beget a fame that will sound your melodious name adown all the line of ages. I would like to write and write and write for the mere sake of writing to you, but it seems that I cannot think today, so I shall beg from you an early letter (enclosing the poem you have promised to send) and a longer one than mine.

With best wishes for your success in life,

I remain, Your friend



Primary Item Type

Personal Correspondence


This item is part of the Paul Laurence Dunbar House collection at Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio. The collection contains items from 219 N. Summit St., Dayton, Ohio (later 219 N. Paul Laurence Dunbar St.), the home Dunbar purchased for his mother, Matilda J. Dunbar, in 1904. Paul Laurence Dunbar lived there until his death in 1906; Matilda lived there until her death in 1934. It is now the Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site, part of the National Park Service.


Paul Laurence Dunbar, primary sources, Black history, Black poets, prominent Ohioans