Born to former slaves in 1872, Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African American poet to earn international acclaim. In his short life of 33 years, he published over 400 poems, six full-length novels, plays, short stories and lyrics for musical productions. His body of published work reveals the daunting challenges facing African Americans in the post-Civil War era and protests the widespread atrocities committed against them.

Dunbar became a major inspiration for Harlem Renaissance authors like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. His influence continues today through the writings of famous African American writers like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, both of whom credit Dunbar as an inspiration. The Paul Laurence Dunbar House, a Dayton Original, has been restored to appear as it did when he lived there, including rooms furnished with his own possessions.