U.S.A. / 1899
Born 1872 in Ohio, USA, Dunbar wrote his first poem at age 6. He spent his life writing poetry, prose, and plays. He is considered to be the first influential Black poet in American literature. "Sympathy" was one of his most popular poems. It is the poem that Maya Angelou referenced when titling her 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
This poem specifically references the pain of enslaved Black people. The metaphor of the "caged bird" is incredibly profound and versatile. There are many reasons why the "caged bird" sings. And there are many reasons why a bird, caged, still sees it necessary to sing. Overall, the idea of usurping bondage and suppression is what unites the "caged birds" to radically release their inner thoughts, ideas, and emotions.