In his many writings, from poems and novels to plays, Paul Laurence Dunbar portrayed African American life in the United States and contributed to the growing social consciousness of the black population. Throughout his lifetime Paul wrote voraciously and the full extent of his output is still not known or published. In his lifetime, the poet became a successful African American writer who was revered throughout the world. He symbolized opportunity to African Americans who struggled to avoid the industrial arts training that was prevalent for his race as well as to all those who struggled to achieve their dreams despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Symbolizing his success are the many schools throughout the United States named after Dunbar. This memorialization of Paul Laurence Dunbar through the naming of the schools promoted many of the positive effects of Paul’s life. In 1953, Geneva C. Turner in The Negro History Bulletin, wrote that students at Dunbar schools could learn two things from the poet’s life. The first was to use any leisure time wisely and profitably. By doing this, students would be a benefit instead of a detriment to the community. The second was to follow Paul’s example and pursue any creative urges. Students should use the poet’s success in a field previously closed to African Americans as incentive to follow their dreams instead of what was prescribed by society.