Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Alice Dunbar-Nelson
Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson (July 19, 1875 - September 18, 1935) was an African American poet, journalist and political activist. She was one of the many African-Americans involved in the Harlem Renaissance. Her first husband was the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar; she then married Arthur Callis and finally Robert J. Nelson, another poet. She may have been bisexual. [1]


She was born to middle class parents in New Orleans, Patricia Wright, a seamstress and former slave, and Joseph Moore, a merchant marine. She graduated from Straight University (now Dillard University) in 1892 and started work as a teacher in the public school system of New Orleans.

In 1895 her first collection of short stories and poems, Violets and Other Tales was published by Dunbar-Nelson. In 1898 she married the poet/publisher Paul Dunbar in New York while she was teaching at the White Rose Mission (White Rose Home for Girls) in Harlem, which she had co-founded. After her marriage she moved to Washington D.C., and after her separation in 1902 she taught at Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1910 she married Arthur Callis but this also ended in divorce.

From 1913 to 1914, she was coeditor and writer for the A.M.E. Review, an influential church publication. In 1916 she married Robert J. Nelson. From 1920, she coedited the Wilmington Advocate and published The Dunbar Speaker and Entertainer, a literary anthology for a black audience.

Alice Dunbar Nelson was an activist for African-Americans and women's rights. In 1915 she was field organizer for the woman's suffrage movement for the Middle Atlantic states. In 1918 she was field representative for the Woman's Committee of the Council of Defense. In 1924 she campaigned for the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill.


Violets and Other Tales 1895. Short stories and poems, including Titee, A Carnival Jangle, and Little Miss Sophie.
The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories, 1899, including Titee (revised), Little Miss Sophie, and A Carnival Jangle.
Wordsworth's Use of Milton's Description of Pandemonium, 1909. in Modern Language Notes.
Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence, 1914.
People of Color in Louisiana, 1917, Journal of Negro History
Mine Eyes Have Seen, 1918, one act play, in The Crisis
Various poetry was published in Crisis, Ebony and Topaz the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Various poetry was published in Opportunity the journal of the Urban League.
Caroling Dusk - a collection of African-American poets, 1927, including I Sit and I Sew, Snow in October, and Sonnet, 1927,
The Colored United States, 1924, The Messenger
From a Woman's Point of View, Une Femme Dit, 1926, column for the Pittsburgh Courier.
As in a Looking Glass 1926-1930, column for the Washington Eagle
So It Seems to Alice Dunbar-Nelson, 1930, column for the Pittsburgh Courier,
Give Us Each Day: The Diary of Alice Dunbar-Nelson. Gloria T. Hull ed. New York: Norton, 1984.

  • Alice Dunbar-Nelson Papers
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