An Analysis Of Alice Dunbar Nelson 's Life

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Biography On July 19, 1875, Alice Dunbar-Nelson was born to Patricia Wright and Joseph Moore. Shortly after Dunbar-Nelson’s birth, her father left the family. Dunbar-Nelson’s mixed race of African American, Native American, and European American benefitted her greatly because she was able to pass as a Caucasian woman in order to gain entrance in to cultural events that would generally exclude minorities (Low). Her fair complexion and red tinted hair allowed her to associate with the Creole society in New Orleans, where she was given more social opportunities and privileges than the average African American during the late nineteenth century. She was one of the few women with African American heritage to have the opportunity to graduate from college, which she took advantage of and earned a teaching certificate at Straight University. In 1897, Dunbar-Nelson moved to Brooklyn, New York, where she helped establish the White Rose Home for Girls in Harlem. This was a settlement house that offered refuge, shelter, and food to women migrating north from the Southern United States after the Civil War. During her time in Brooklyn, she published a poem in a magazine that was accompanied by a picture of her. This photo attracted the attention of a nationally acclaimed African American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar. The two were married in 1897, but separated after an incident of physical abuse where Dunbar-Nelson nearly died from her husband’s attack. Dunbar died in 1906, but Dunbar-Nelson kept his last name because of the social benefits and connections it offered her. In 1910, Dunbar-Nelson secretly married Henry A. Callis, but their marriage ended shortly after because of a rumor that the female poet and activist was having same-sex rel... ... middle of paper ... ... creole culture and chapel of worship. In this short story, Dunbar-Nelson accurately portrays significant creole customs such as traditions regarding dancing, picnics, and themes related to voodoo. She uses the character “The Wizened One” to portray creole language, religion, and association with several ethnical and racial backgrounds that influenced Louisiana at the turn of the century. Additionally, Dunbar-Nelson analyzes the creole tradition of a man sitting a woman on the right side of his mother to suggest that she would become his wife, which acts as a conclusion to the story. By comparing and contrasting two ethnicities that belong to the same culture and emphasizing themes related to the creole society, Dunbar-Nelson effectively creates the setting of Louisiana in the early twentieth century while attempting to address minority issues relevant to her time.

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