May 20 - Trying to Make Ends Meet

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On May 20, 1905, Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee, Alabama, wrote to Alice Moore Dunbar in Wilmington, Delaware.  Washington was the principal of the Tuskegee Institute, a school that provided vocational training to African Americans.  After permanently separating from her husband Paul Laurence Dunbar in January 1902, Alice struggled to support herself.  She taught school in Wilmington during the academic year, but was hoping to find summer employment.  Washington told Alice that there was to be no summer term that year at Tuskegee, nor at the Hampton Institute in Virginia.  He suggested she contact Hugh M. Browne, president of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia (now known as Cheyney University).

The only possible opening that I could think of at present would be a position at the summer school under Mr. Browne.  His, with the exception of Howard University, seems to be the only summer school that is going to be in session during the coming summer.  We have had to abandon ours for the present, and the same has been done at Hampton.  I shall keep the matter in mind and if any other opening occurs to me, I shall write you.

Booker T. Washington to Alice Moore Dunbar, May 20, 1905.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Paul was 32 years old and living in Dayton with his mother Matilda.  He was in poor health and had less than a year to live.  Paul and Alice had been joint investors in a real estate development prior to their separation.  Alice tried to obtain money by selling her shares, but the transaction required a lot of paperwork and communication between them had stopped.  George White, a Black entrepreneur and former Congressman, served as mediator between the Dunbars to complete the deal.

I had a letter from Mrs. Dunbar this morning, indicating her willingness to join you in the deed conveying your shares of stock in the Geo. H. White Land & Improvement Co. to me.  I have by today's mail forwarded to her the deed with my check for $1.00 to defray the expenses of acknowledgement, seal, etc. and hope to get it back by the last of this week.  You will see that I have signed your name and your wife's name for the reason that you and she were residents of the City of Washington, D. C., at the time you gave me power of attorney to convey your interests.  When the deed reaches me from Mrs. Dunbar I will forward check to cover the transaction between us.

George H. White to Paul Laurence Dunbar, June 28, 1905.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).