March 10 - Return of the Native

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On March 10, 1900, newspapers reported that Paul Laurence Dunbar had left Colorado, after spending nearly six months in the Rocky Mountains seeking relief from tuberculosis.

Paul Laurence Dunbar has returned to his home in the East after a sojourn of several months in Denver, Colorado.  It is with pleasure that we note the beneficial effects of that climate on his health.

The Freeman (Indianapolis, Indiana).  March 10, 1900.  Page 4.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, accompanied by his wife and mother, are visiting at his old home in Dayton, Ohio.  The poet is much improved in health.  He is writing a novel, dealing with life on the plains.

"General Race News."  The Recorder (Indianapolis, Indiana).  March 10, 1900.  Page 2.

A few weeks later, Paul's mother Matilda received a letter inquiring about his condition from Amelia Douglass, a former neighbor in Washington, D. C.  Amelia was married to Lewis Douglass, a son of Frederick Douglass.

You say that Paul and Alice will shortly return to Washington;  is it possible that Paul's health is so much better that he will be running no risk in returning?  I certainly hope so.  When I think of how very ill he was a year ago and how all the odds seemed against him, it seems almost a miracle that he is alive and doing so well.

Amelia Douglass to Matilda Dunbar, April 13, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 2).

Later in the year, Paul expressed gratefulness for the improvement he experienced in Colorado the previous winter.

Ever since I first determined to try the East again after my winter in Colorado, I have wanted to say something to express what I feel toward the place which has put me so far on the road to recovery.  It was such a hopeless flight, seemingly, that I had before me when I started to Denver a little over eight months ago.  I shook hands with friends who never expected to press my hand again, and then a dash across the country, through seas of yellow grain, over vast prairies, across great rivers, and one day with a compelling power that I shall never forget, Denver took me into her arms.

Through a long golden autumn, the most beautiful I have ever seen, she nursed me like a gentle mother, and I lay on her breast drinking her pure air like a child its mother's milk.  New life glowed within me.  New strength throbbed in my limbs.  The future that had been so dark brightened.  I awoke in the mornings to look out upon the mountains with joy in life again.

Then came the call back -- back to work.  Do you think I went without regret?  Do you think I do not miss the friends I made?  That I do not long for the broad sweep of the prairies, and that my eye does not seek yearningly each morning the rugged outline of the mountains?  But I can work again.  I can live again, and for this I thank Denver with her clear skies, her wine-like air and her great all-holding heart.

"Paul Laurence Dunbar Restored to Health."  Unidentified newspaper clipping [1900].  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 5).