2012 Student Research Conference:
25th Annual Student Research Conference

Reexamining the Bad: A Historical Perspective on the Pro-Plantation Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar
Ashley N. Butner
Dr. Bob Mielke, Faculty Mentor

The writing of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) ranges in outspokenness against racial inequality. A modern reader may be shocked--even offended--to find that a portion of his poems not only deplore the end of slavery, but long affectionately for "Mastah." By contrast, other of his works bemoan racism to an unnervingly tender tee. In this paper I will prove that Dunbar's pro-plantation poetry maintains relevance in the study of African American literature today, primarily because of the historical clues it gives us as to Reconstruction for an African American. It illustrates that the end of slavery did not mean the end of oppression, but rather, new problems. In this way, poems such as "Chrismus on the Plantation" and "The Deserted Plantation" emerge as veritable signposts to the harsh reality of the post-Civil War United States for an African American.

Keywords: Paul Laurence Dunbar, African American literature, Reconstruction, poetry

African-American Studies

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 307-3
Location: VH 1228
Time: 1:30

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