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Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond The Mask

Directed by Frederick Lewis
00 hr mins | United States | English


“Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond The Mask” is a feature length documentary on the life and legacy of the first African American writer to gain international fame. The film’s writer, director and co-producer, 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, where he was boyhood friends with the Wright Brothers, 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.

Dunbar’s story is also the story of the African American experience around the turn of the century. The man abolitionist Frederick Douglass called “the most promising young colored man in America” wrote widely published essays critical of Jim Crow laws, lynching and what was commonly called “The Negro Problem.”

More than eight years in the making, “Beyond The Mask” received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities..


Director’s Notes

Writer, director and co-producer Frederick Lewis is a professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies at Ohio University. His documentaries have been seen on PBS stations throughout the U.S. and screened at more than 80 cultural/educational venues, including the National Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and the Explorers Club in NYC.

Professor Lewis is a recipient of the Presidential Teacher Award, Ohio University’s highest honor for transformative teaching, curriculum innovation and mentoring.
He recently served as a Fulbright Specialist in Hungary and has also taught or lectured at universities in England, Germany, France, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.