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Dimensions: 30 inches wide, 36 inches tall
Inkjet on matte paper, printed on both sides

Artist's narrative:

Letter 21 details the events Paul Laurence Dunbar experienced following the Chicago World's Fair. Dunbar writes to Frederick Douglass, whom he had made friends with at the World's Fair after reading his poems there. The beginning of the letter tells the story of Dunbar’s gratitude toward Douglass as he promises to try to be worthy of the interest Douglass took in him. The end of the letter has a less positive tone, with Dunbar reflecting on some unfortunate events that occurred at the World's Fair. Dunbar details some of the experiences he faced after the fact. Despite the dejected tone the end of the letter displays, I wanted to communicate a feeling of hope. Dunbar has gone through unfortunate circumstances, yet he looks to Douglass for help or rescue. Black and white graphite is used on top of the tan-toned paper to create a portrait of Dunbar and a scene of three birds. A charcoal drawing of the Haitian Building at the Chicago World's Fair on tracing paper is incorporated around Dunbar and the birds. The portrait and birds speak to the more hopeful message of the letter, while the Haitian Building lightly looms in the background, as it does in Dunbar’s mind. The sans-serif typeface is Macho, designed by Michał Jarociński. The serif typeface is Corundum, by Joshua Darden, an African American type designer.

Publication Date

Fall 10-23-2023


Paul Laurence Dunbar, Dayton history, Black history, Dayton, Typography, University of Dayton, Graphic Design


Art and Design | Arts and Humanities | Graphic Design | Illustration


Copyright © 2023, Madelyn Selong

Wish to Be, Try to Be



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