Movie poster of Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond The Mask - Photo courtesy of The African American Museum, Dallas

Special to The Dallas Examiner


On April 29, the African American Museum will host a screening of Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond The Mask, a feature-length documentary on the life and legacy of the first African American poet/writer to gain international fame. Frederick Lewis – an acclaimed filmmaker, writer and director and professor of media arts at Ohio University – will be on hand to introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion. The event is free and open to the public.

Born to former slaves in Dayton, Ohio, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) is best remembered for his poem We Wear The Mask and for lines from Sympathy that became the title of Maya Angelou’s famous autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. A clip of Angelou reciting Dunbar’s poem is featured in the film.

Dunbar’s story is also the story of the African American experience around the turn of the century. The man abolitionist Frederick Douglass called “the most promising young colored man in America” wrote widely published essays critical of Jim Crow laws, lynching and what was commonly called “The Negro Problem.”

More than eight years in the making, Beyond The Mask received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities with additional support from Ohio Humanities.

Lewis independent documentaries have been seen on PBS stations throughout the U.S. and screened at more than 100 cultural and educational venues, including the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Professor Lewis is a recipient of the Presidential Teacher Award, Ohio University’s highest honor for transformative teaching, curriculum innovation and mentoring. He has been a Fulbright Specialist in Hungary and has also taught or lectured in England, Germany, France, Ukraine, Malaysia and Vietnam.

“This screening has been in the planning stages for many months,” said Lewis. “I’m looking forward to sharing the story of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s brief but brave, prolific life with the people of Dallas.”

For more information, go to or call 214-565-9026.

Charity Chukwu is the copy editor and social media manager at The Dallas Examiner. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014 with a Bachelor of Journalism concentrating in copyediting...

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