PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR: BEYOND THE MASK Documentary Screening & Discussion

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May 8, 2022 • 1:00 pm - 3:30 pm



The Mark Twain House & Museum is excited to present 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. 

Originally released in February of 2018, the film is the result of an eight-year research project co-produced, written, and directed by Ohio University professor Frederick Lewis to highlight the personal life and career of one of the most influential African-American poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar’s legacy in the pantheon of African-Americans of letters is well-established; yet in many quarters, his literary gifts have historically been under-appreciated. Lewis’s highly entertaining and beautifully photographed documentary rectifies this. After two years of tweaking, tightening, and visually enhancing, the film is better than ever – just in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Dunbar’s birth. 

Filmmaker Frederick Lewis will be on hand to introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.  

This is a FREE event but REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED to attend. Reserve your spot HERE. 



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.” 


Writer and director Frederick Lewis is a professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies at Ohio University. His independent documentaries have been seen on PBS stations throughout the U.S. and been screened at more than 100 cultural/educational venues, including the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, and the Explorers Club in NYC. 

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. 


“Beyond The Mask” received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities with additional support from Ohio Humanities. 

Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from CT Humanities; the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts; Ensworth Charitable Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee; the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign; The Hartford; The Mark Twain Foundation; The National Endowment for the Humanities; and Travelers.


May 8, 2022
1:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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