PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR: BEYOND THE MASK
On Friday evening, February 16th, at 9 pm in Carlton 1, the Toronto Black Film Festival will present “Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond The Mask” a feature length documentary on the life and legacy of the first African American writer to gain international fame. The filmmaker, Frederick Lewis, a professor at Ohio University, will be on hand to introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.
Born to former slaves in Dayton, Ohio, where he was boyhood friends with the Wright Brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) is best remembered for his poem “We Wear The Mask” and for lines from “Sympathy” that became the title of Maya Angelou’s famous autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” A clip of Angelou reciting Dunbar’s poem is featured.
Dunbar’s story is also the story of the African American experience around the turn of the century. The man abolitionist Frederick Douglass called “the most promising young colored man in America” wrote widely published essays critical of Jim Crow laws, lynching and what was commonly called “The Negro Problem.” More than eight years in the making, “Beyond The Mask” received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is a production of the Central Region Humanities Center based at Ohio University.