It made little difference to those who read "When Malindy Sings" that Dunbar had never been South when his first dialect poems were written, that his dialect was in essence his tribute to his idols James Whitcomb Riley, Will Pfrimmer, and John Greenleaf Whittier, that his only contact with the days of slavery came from his parents, both of whom were ex-slaves and who had told him stories of the antebellum days, that his mother tried to keep as much unpleasantness as possible from her young son, and that he was bortn in Dayton, Ohio, where he grew up in a substantially all-white society.
From "The Masking of the Novelist," in A Singer in the Dawn: Reinterpretations of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Ed. Jay Martin. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1975. Copyright © 1975 by Jay Martin.