On February 22, 1899, Paul Laurence Dunbar was in Alabama to participate in a conference at the Tuskegee Institute, a school that provided vocational training to African Americans.
Wednesday, February 22nd, 1899, marks another great gathering at Tuskegee. The great annual conference convened here for its eighth annual session. More than the usual number of distinguished visitors were present at the conference. Mr. Paul Laurence Dunbar was here to entertain the students and visitors. He read twice to the student body and several times to visitors and students.
"A Day in School. The Tuskegee Annual Conference a Success," by Roscoe Simmons. The Colored American (Washington, D. C.). March 4, 1899. Page 6.
The chapel of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute was filled to overflowing. Booker T. Washington called to order the eighth annual conference of Negro farmers. The session was spirited and interesting. The gathering in the chapel tonight was a pleasant event. Paul Laurence Dunbar read from his poetical and prose creations.
"Negro Farmers. The Eighth Annual Conference at Tuskegee, Ala." The Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana). February 23, 1899.
Although Paul participated in many public events in support of Tuskegee, he had a private dislike for Booker T. Washington, the principal of the school. He expressed his frustration in letters to his wife Alice.
The first thing I was told when I got here was that I should have to recite the same night. I did, but was so tired that I only did four pieces. The trick the Washingtons did last night I thought very shabby. It has been raining here and the roads are in very bad condition, so Mr. W. does not expect a huge audience at the conference this year. He watches me closer than ever and last night he forced a discussion upon me at his house. He is slick.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, February 21, 1899. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
I am just dropping you these lines to let you know that I am in Nashville safe and sound. Mr. Washington, after making me recite four times in three days, didn't give me a cent for it, only paying up my expenses of $55.10.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, February 24, 1899. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).