Alice Dunbar Nelson

(1875 - 1935)

Writer, educator, and organizer Alice Ruth Moore was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to multiracial Creole parents. She graduated from Straight University (now Dillard) and first published her poems and short stories at just age 20, beginning with the collection Violets and Other Tales. Dunbar Nelson worked as a public-school teacher and journalist before dedicating herself to a career of staunch activism for racial and gender equality. She lectured widely, wrote essays on pressing civil rights questions, and held roles in civil rights organizations and committees dedicated to causes including female suffrage and anti-lynching.

Dunbar Nelson was married three times—to poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, physician Henry Arthur Callis, and activist Robert J. Nelson—and her diaries, now valuable historic sources, document her equally serious affairs with women. Her racially focused works struggled to find footing with audiences in the climate of the day, but she is now recognized as an important Harlem Renaissance participant whose essays and reviews helped garner attention for central figures of the movement.