Born during the height of discrimination and slavery, Paul Laurence Dunbar strived to be educated and was able to write poems, short stories and novels from the perspective of his race, the African-Americans. Their desire to be free from the term Africans which has a connotation of being a slave was vividly described in his writings. These writings became the inspiration of the personalities of the Civil rights movement like Maya Angelou. This is specifically to Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
In one of his poems entitled, Lyrics of Lowly Life, he articulated how his race were soothed by their dreams of freedom that despite the oppression they are experiencing, they go to sleep calmly because of the hope that someday freedom will come. One verse in the poem says, “Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, where ranges forth the spirit far and free”. Moreover, in this piece, it was illustrated that they are indeed human beings that also experience joy, laughter, misery and hardships. This is aside from the fact that they are “Africans” or slaves who are treated lowly by the whites.
His undeniably excellent writing brought life to the longings of every African-American. The race’s ancient longing to be free and savor a life in a land where they can sing to their hearts content and live at their own ends. Some of his poems include Lyrics of the Hearthside, Lyrics of Love and Laughter, and Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow.
On the other hand, similar principle is reflected in the works of Charlotte Gilman of the feminist movement questioning patriarchal oppression. Gilman started questioning domestic roles of women who are just confined in their homes and care for their children, husband and manage the hearth. She expounded in her speeches and writings that because of this gender role, women are not allowed to participate in human activities where the society benefits; Ergo the argument, being more human than woman.
Dunbar, P.L., (1899). Lyrics of Lowly Life. The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Retrieved from
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1960-1935). (n.d.). Women’s Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society. Retrieved from