Matilda Jane Dunbar 1845-1934

What’s a mother to do
with a son as precocious as this
what’s a freed slave woman to do
but smile at a son who poured out words
in stories      on paper        in print
what’s a mother to do
but swell with a bit of maternal pride
her son a leader of literary men
what’s a mother to think
her son out traveling the world
introduced to presidents and kings
while Jim Crow churns old hatreds
what’s a mother to do but hope
that after the searing civil war
her country will come to embrace her Paul
and all of his brothers and sisters
what’s an old black woman to do
but wake in the night terrified
as footsteps and fires still hammer and cleave

the fate of his brothers and sisters

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Matilda Jane Dunbar was the mother of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906).

Born in Dayton, Ohio, and schoolmate and friend of Orville and Wilbur Wright, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one the first influential black poets in American literature.

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© Frank Kearns 2015

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