On August 28, 1898, Alice Moore Dunbar in West Medford, Massachusetts, wrote to her husband Paul Laurence Dunbar in Washington, D. C., urging him to be on his best behavior. At the time, the Dunbars were experiencing a lengthy separation due to domestic conflict and Alice was living with her family near Boston.
Dearie, I do hope you're going to be a good boy. You will be, won't you? I don't want to think of you ever getting so that you can carelessly go off and do wrong and think nothing of it. You've been my own good, true Paul. Let me think of you being so always, won't you?
Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, August 28, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
During Paul's frequent travels to public speaking engagements, Alice was concerned about his drinking and contact with women. Her letters often implored him to "be a good boy."
You mustn't flirt, and you must please remember that Ittle Brown Head is awfully jealous and can't help it 'cause God put it in her and gets awful unhappy when she thinks other people are thought too much of. Now write me a nice, long letter, and tell me news. Keep yourself a good boy, say your prayers every night, take care of your health, and love me lots.
Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, September 3, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
God keep you -- and your trunk. Be a good boy and write to wifekins often. Don't forget your trunk, and your medicine. Tell me all about your reception.
Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, December 3, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
When Paul traveled to Nashville to visit Fisk University, he assured Alice that he would be a good boy.
I am going to Nashville for the 24th and 25th and Knoxville the 28th, but don't be afraid. I am going to be a good boy. I wish I could put in this letter all my love and hugging for your dear heart. Love to all, but most to you, dear little Wife Bird.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, February 22, 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 and straight, straight. Oh Lord, I am staying in "Theological Hall." No beer, no whiskey, no gin. I am painfully good.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, February 24, 1899. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
Fisk University was founded by the American Missionary Association shortly after the Civil War for the purpose of educating people who had been enslaved. The school had a strict policy against alcohol. Theological Hall was home to Fisk's divinity students.
Fisk University aims to be a great center of the best Christian educational forces for the training of the colored youth of the South, that they may be rightly disciplined and inspired for leaders in the vitally important work that needs to be done for their race.
The following practices are strictly forbidden: Profanity, betting and gambling, the use of ardent spirits as a beverage, and the use of tobacco; also card playing and dancing.
Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Fisk University. Marshall & Bruce Company (Nashville, Tennessee). 1900. Pages 6 and 22.