Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935)

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Alice Dunbar-Nelson (July 19, 1875 - September 18, 1935) wrote two books of poetry and short stories, several journal and newspaper articles, and several essays. She had a unique take on racial issues, as she claimed mixed-race parentage that was Black and Creole. She taught in New Orleans, then in New York, where she helped found the White Rose Mission. Dunbar-Nelson then moved to Washington, D.C. where she published The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories (1899), which included a few revised stories from her first book. She moved to Delaware and taught at a high school and the State College for Colored Students, continuing her writing by publishing poetry, essays, and newspaper articles. She was also the co-editor and a writer for the A.M.E Review, an extremely influential church publication. In 1915, Dunbar-Nelson served as field organizer for the woman’s suffrage movement for the Middle Atlantic states and went on to be field representative for the Woman’s Committee of the Council of Defense. She also campaigned for the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill.

Her poetry was published in Opportunity, Crisis, and Ebony and Topaz, and three of her poems were included in Countee Cullen’s anthology of African American poetry. She edited the anthologies Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence (1914), and The Dunbar Speaker and Entertainer (1920) and co-edited the Wilmington Advocate.

Dunbar-Nelson married three times. Her first marriage, to Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1898, ended with a separation in 1902 and his death in 1906. She retained her eminent first husband's last name, however, as it helped her get publications and public speaking engagements. Dunbar-Nelson lived in the LeDroit Park neighborhood of DC from 1898 to 1902, and was active in the Saturday Nighter's salon hosted by Georgia Douglas Johnson, even after she moved to Maryland and Delaware.Her diary, Give Us Each Day: The Diary of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, edited by Gloria T. Hull, was published posthumously in 1984. AND DC Writers’ Homes: Beltway Poetry Quartery:

Written by Word Works intern Monica Root October 2013, edited by Kim Roberts, January 2016.

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