Paul Laurence Dunbar is one of Dayton’s gems. Along with the Wright brothers and Charles Kettering, Dunbar is on the list of famous Daytonians known around the world.
For students of literature, Dunbar is one of Dayton’s greatest treasures. That’s why Carol Loranger, chair and associate professor of English Language and Literatures, has been sending students in her American literature survey course to Woodland Cemetery and downtown Dayton to find Dunbar’s grave site and home, respectively.
“It’s good for the students to experience a local writer of such literary and historical importance,” said Loranger.
Dunbar is known for his lyrical poetry in both standard English and dialect. He often wrote poems about the African American experience, such as “Dinah Kneading Dough” and “Sympathy,” from which come the famous words “I know why the caged bird sings.”
Students who make the literary pilgrimage Loranger suggests are asked to record it with a photo posted to Course Studio. If they complete this activity in the first few weeks of the class, they earn an extra 5 percent added to their lowest exam grade. Loranger uses the activity to avoid last-minute extra credit assignments.
“I feel students should plan ahead,” said Loranger, “They should not ask for extra credit because they’ve done badly and hope to repair it, but ask for it as an augmentation of their learning experience.”
Loranger has been offering this assignment to her students for 10 years, and many of them have taken her up on it. Loranger says she often teaches young people who are planning to become middle or high school English teachers, and she suggested that a photograph next to Dunbar’s home is a great image for a teacher’s homepage.
“And I hope it gives those of them who find employment locally an idea for a field trip,” she adds, and instills in them a pride for Dayton-area literature and art.