November 6 - Graduate Studies Program

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On November 6, 1898, Paul Laurence Dunbar made a public appearance in New York City for the benefit of Atlanta University in Georgia.  Founded in 1865 and now known as Clark Atlanta University, it was the first institution in the country to award graduate degrees to African Americans.  At the time, Horace Bumstead was president of the university and W. E. B. Du Bois was a professor there.

At the Brick Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue tomorrow evening there will be a public meeting in the interest of Atlanta University for the elevation of the colored people of the South.  The pastor, the Rev. Dr. Henry van Dyke, will preside.  Paul Laurence Dunbar will read selections from his works.  Any citizen who thinks this country is languishing for want of objects at home to which to apply its surplus energy and benevolence, is advised to attend this meeting and be enlightened.  After nearly thirty years of patient effort, the University still needs unremitting support, and its claims and achievements will be duly set forth at the meeting tomorrow.

"News of the Colleges.  Atlanta University."  The Evening Post (New York, New York).  November 5, 1898.  Page 18.

A meeting will be held tonight in the Brick Presbyterian Church in the interest of higher education for the negro.  The Rev. Dr. Henry Van Dyke, the pastor;  the Rev. Dr. Charles Cuthbert Hall, President of the Union Theological Seminary;  the Rev. Horace Bumstead, President of Atlanta University, and Hamilton W. Mabie will speak.  Paul Laurence Dunbar will read from his poems.

"Higher Education for Negroes."  The New York Times (New York, New York).  November 6, 1898.  Page 17.

In the Brick Presbyterian Church there was held, on Sunday evening November 6, a most interesting and successful public meeting in the interest of Atlanta University.  Mr. Paul Laurence Dunbar recited three of his poems, "Strength for the Fight," "The Poet and his Song," and "When Malindy Sings." The simplicity and naturalness of his rendering, the delicacy and refinement of his expression, in voice, gesture and manner, showed Mr. Dunbar to be not only a true poet, but a true artist as well.  Dr. Charles Cuthbert Hall, President of Union Theological Seminary and one of our Trustees, caught the inspiration for the opening of his admirable address from Mr. Dunbar's poem, "Strength for the Fight," and made tender and even pathetic allusion to the work of Atlanta University, and pleaded for a more liberal support of the Institution.

"Our New York Meeting."  The Bulletin of Atlanta University (Atlanta, Georgia).  No. 96, December 1898.  Page 2.

A few months later, Paul discussed his busy speaking schedule with his wife Alice, and said he had again been asked to recite for Atlanta University.

Hubbins is so tired tonight.  How he misses his wife.  He wants to laid his head on her breast.  And now may I drop in just a little line of business in our romance.  I've promised to read for Atlanta University at Worcester.  The 22nd is also wanted.  You know the 23rd is in Philadelphia and the 24th I have promised to the Women's Medical college there.  So I shall need all the rest I can get.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, March 7, 1899.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

When Atlanta University held its commencement that spring, Paul was awarded an honorary degree of Master of Arts, though he was unable to attend the ceremony since he was critically ill with pneumonia in New York.

It gives me great pleasure, as Secretary of the Ann'l Meeting of the Board of Trustees of Atlanta University, held at Atlanta, May 31st, to inform you of a vote passed by them, which confers upon you the Honorary Degree of "Master of Arts."  The exact vote, as proposed by President Bumstead and passed unanimously was as follows.  "Voted that the Honorary Degree of Master of Arts be conferred on Mr. Paul Laurence Dunbar, of whom Mr. Wm. D. Howells has said that 'He is the only Negro of pure African extraction to feel the Negro life aesthetically and to express it lyrically.'"

Frederick H. Means to Paul Laurence Dunbar, June 5, 1899.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

The various exercises connected with our thirtieth anniversary were unusually pleasant.  The weather was favorable and the attendance large.  Aside from the customary routine business of the board of trustees, action of special interest was taken in the conferring of the honorary degree of A. M. upon Paul Laurence Dunbar of Washington, D. C, the eminent Negro poet.

"Commencement Week."  The Bulletin of Atlanta University (Atlanta, Georgia).  No. 102, June 1899.  Pages 1 - 2.