Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African American writer of sixteen collections of poetry, four collections of short stories, and four novels (Miller 393). No Negro of finer artistic spirit has been born in America (Bone 131). He speaks or slavery, rebellion, misery, and freedom in his poems and short stories. Paul Laurence Dunbar is a well know African American, classical poet of the nineteenth century, who writes poems in standard English or black dialect, seeks to recreate the Negro, and cries out to freedom form slavery to all of the Negroes who read his work. He was popular with black and white readers of his day, and his works are celebrated today by scholars and school children.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was a former slave who escaped by means of the Underground Railroad (Miller 393). He began writing after he gradated from high school because he could not afford to go to college. He got a job, which bored him enough, that he began to write poems and short stories. As his first writing made a little impression on people, his second collection flew off. He wrote many books filled with his amazing poetry, including "Sympathy" and "We Wear Masks"(Miller 392). It was the publishing of "Lyrics of Lowly Life" that had made Dunbar a national literary figure. He struggled during his youth to support himself as a writer. In the poem "Sympathy" he cries out against the feeling of slavery. He writes on his experience as a slave and tries to win the respect of the Negro slaves (Metclaf 110). As Dunbar cries out against slavery he expresses the Negro of more of a champion than anything else (Redding 128). In "We Wear Masks" he is speaking of the masks the slaves or any person wear to hide their faces from the embarrassment of not only being slaves, but being treated the way they were by their owners. Also, in "Sympathy" he uses words and phrases to speak of freedom, such as " I know what the caged bird feels".