The new exhibit, Paul Laurence Dunbar: Diamond of the Gem City, highlights the life, work, and legacy of the multi-faceted writer through a series of text panels, archival materials, and three-dimensional objects. The exhibit was created by NAAMCC in collaboration with National Park Service’s Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (DAAV).
Born in Dayton in 1872, Dunbar became one of America’s greatest poets, whose work later fueled a Black literary revolution. His life was marked by personal triumph and inherited trauma, which left indelible impressions on the world around him. This exhibit puts that life in context and positions him within a community of African American activists, including Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Hallie Quinn Brown, Frederick Douglass, and Brigadier General Charles Young. It also frames him not just as a hero but also as a human whose flaws help tell a complete version of our American story.
The exhibit will open as the Paul Laurence Dunbar House celebrates the sesquicentennial anniversary of Dunbar’s birth. The Dunbar 150 project, created by the National Park Service’s Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, is a yearlong celebration that will spotlight Dunbar’s literary contributions and share details of his life and legacy with the world. In addition, the exhibit opening date corresponds with June 3, 1904, when the house was deeded to Dunbar’s mother, Matilda.
The Paul Laurence Dunbar House is at 219 N. Paul Laurence Dunbar St. in Dayton. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For information, call 937-225-7705 or 800-860-0148 or go to nps.gov/places/dunbar-house.htm or ohiohistory.org.