Dunbar died at age 33 on Feb. 9, 1906, following years of chronic health problems, which included several bouts of pneumonia and a tuberculosis diagnosis.
Saturday’s ceremony featured a performance by Dayton historian and scholar LaVerne Sci and a performance of Dunbar-themed music by the UD Chorale, conducted by Steven Hankle and accompanied by collaborative pianist John Benjamin.
“This is a wonderful connection between academic scholarship and community scholarship,” Daniel-Cox said. “(LaVerne Sci) has been safeguarding and coordinating the Dunbar gravesite ceremony on the day of his death for decades. This is an expansion of that.”
The gravesite portion of the event concluded with a motorcade that passed the Dunbar grave and continued in the Sears Recital Hall with a recital of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Celebration of Paul Laurence Dunbar,” featuring UD English professor Emeritus Herbert Woodward Martin, along with Benjamin and Daniel-Cox.
“This is the recital that started all of my Dunbar research at UD,” Daniel-Cox said. “We did it for the first time about a decade ago and since then we’ve done it 25 times around the U.S., so (we brought) it back home again.”
Daniel-Cox, a performing scholar and voice area coordinator for UD, founded the Dunbar Music Archive in 2014.
“The music archive is simply an internet-based resource for people who are interested in learning more about Dunbar,” she said. “It includes poetry text, and streaming audio so that you can hear the poetry, which is really huge for Dunbar because of his standard English and dialect poems.”
Thanks to the work of Daniel-Cox and her colleagues, UD has received grants totaling more than $250,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to promote awareness, appreciation and scholarly inquiry into the work of Dunbar. These funds will go toward the upgrade and expansion of the archive into a library to include other Dunbar resources.