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Film & Talkback: Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond the Mask

March 16 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm

On Thursday, March 16, 2023 at 6 pm, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will present a free screening of “Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond The Mask” a feature length documentary on the life and legacy of the first African American poet/writer to gain international fame. The filmmaker, Frederick Lewis, a professor at Ohio University, will be on hand to introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.

Born to former slaves in Dayton, Ohio, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) is best remembered for his poem “We Wear The Mask” and for lines from “Sympathy” that became the title of Maya Angelou’s famous autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” A clip of Angelou reciting Dunbar’s poem is featured in the film.

More than ten years in the making, “Beyond The Mask” received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities with additional support from Ohio Humanities.

Known primarily as a poet, Dunbar also wrote novels, short stories and essays critical of lynching and Jim Crow laws. He was friends with WEB Dubois and Booker T. Washington and was mentored by Frederick Douglass. His story is really the story of many African Americans at the turn of the century.


March 16
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm


BCRI Community Meeting Room
520 16th Street N
Birmingham, AL 35203
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