Paul Laurence Dunbar

American Realist

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Background

Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906) was an American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the American Civil War, Dunbar began to write stories and verse when still a child and was president of his high school's literary society. He published his first poems at the age of 16 in a Dayton newspaper. He wrote the lyrics for the musical comedy, In Dahomey (1903), the first all-African-American musical produced on Broadway; the musical also toured in the United States and the United Kingdom. Suffering from tuberculosis, Dunbar died at the age of 33.

We Wear The Mask

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 overwise,
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!
T It is about life of the average American in the 1800's


C debt, mask, human guile,cries,tortured, myriad subtleties / Christ, grins


A The attitude of the writer is contemplative throughout the whole poem


S 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.


T Dunbar knows the problems and explains how he has to hide behind a Mask


T We know that Dunbar avoids including any specifics in "We Wear the Mask." We also know that he did this on purpose, perhaps with the intention of amplifying his poetic references to masks and deception. But there's no getting around the history and motivation for this particular poem, which is a clear reaction to the stifling racial climate of the late nineteenth century.

BLIND (Anti- Racism song) by Rockz Solid and Annie Mae