This lecture narrates the journey of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first professional African American writer born after slavery, through parts of England during the first half of 1897. Newly engaged to aspiring writer Alice Ruth Moore, Dunbar reflects on the implications of their brief but already tumultuous courtship, but also on how his life and literature may be forever changed after they marry. He also absorbs the sights and sounds of England, where he encounters fellow writers, artists, and activists; where the reasons for his commercial rise in America dawn on him, alternately inspiring and unsettling him; and where he, as an African American young man, learns to distinguish between the privileges of his tour abroad versus those hitherto denied him in his native land. The lecture is an excerpt of a comprehensive biography of the literature, life, and times of Dunbar from his birth in 1872 to his death in 1906.
Gene Andrew Jarrett is the Seryl Kushner Dean of the College of Arts and Science and Professor of English at New York University. Born and raised in New York City, he earned his A.B. in English from Princeton University, and received his A.M. and Ph.D. in English from Brown University. He has published ten books on African American literature and won fellowships from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study as well as the American Council of Learned Societies.