Gene Jarrett takes us back to the Gilded Age in his new biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar

June 28, 2022

Gene Jarrett, Princeton’s dean of the faculty and the William S. Tod Professor of English, has taught students about Paul Laurence Dunbar for two decades and published book articles and chapters on the popular and accomplished writer. But it wasn’t until 2008 that Jarrett decided to tackle a biography of Dunbar, who rose to prominence in the Gilded Age and has been called the “poet laureate of his race.”

The biography, “Paul Laurence Dunbar: The Life and Times of a Caged Bird,” was published June 7 by Princeton University Press. Dunbar’s 150th birthday is being marked on June 27, 2022.

Today in a multimedia campaign, Jarrett tells the backstory to several moments in the book, unpacks his research process and reflects on how his Princeton professor Toni Morrison helped shape his own story as a writer.

Here, read Jamie Saxon’s thoughtful interview with Dean Jarrett.

Here, watch the captivating video by Danielle Capparella and Megan Osborne.

Photo of Gene Jarrett by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications; book photo courtesy of Princeton University Press