…born in Dayton, Ohio, on June 27, 1872. His parents, Joshua Dunbar and Matilda Murphy Dunbar, were married six months earlier, on December 24, 1871. Both slaves prior to the Civil War, Joshua Dunbar escaped and served in both the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment before coming to Dayton…. Many of their experiences of slave and plantation life influenced Dunbar’s later writings.
A poem about authenticity and power in America:
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!