Paul Laurence Dunbar “Beyond The Mask”

by Frederick Lewis
Documentary
Written, Directed & Co-produced by Frederick Lewis
Total RT: 1:58:45

“Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond The Mask” is a feature length documentary on the life and legacy of the first African American writer to gain international fame.

Born to former slaves in Dayton, Ohio, where he was boyhood friends with the Wright Brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) is best remembered for his poem “We Wear The Mask” and for lines from “Sympathy” that became the title of Maya Angelou’s famous autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”  A clip of Angelou reciting Dunbar’s poem is featured.

Dunbar’s story mirrors the African American experience around the turn of the century. The man abolitionist Frederick Douglass called “the most promising young colored man in America” wrote widely published essays critical of Jim Crow laws, lynching and what was commonly called “The Negro Problem.”