U.S.A. / 1899
Born in 1872 in Ohio, USA, Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote his first poem at age six. He spent his life writing poetry, prose, and plays and he is considered to be the first influential Black poet in America.
"Sympathy"—one of his most popular poems—influenced the title of Maya Angelou's 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This poem crafts a profound metaphor for the pain endured by enslaved Black people. There are many reasons why a "caged bird" sings. And there are many reasons why a bird, caged, still finds it necessary to sing. This is one of my favorite poems. Read it in full here.