The Local History and Genealogy department at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) is home to several original printings of Dunbar’s including three first editions of Majors and Minors. Each of these first editions comes with its own unique story. One bears the signature of Dunbar himself, signed the year after the work was published when he was just 24 years old. The second holds the signature of one of his Toledo benefactors, Dr. Henry A. Tobey, superintendent of the Toledo State Hospital and lifelong friend to Dunbar. And the third comes from the personal library of former Toledo mayor, Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones. Jones’s copy contains numerous notes in the margins exclaiming his admiration for the poet.
There is no doubt that Dunbar’s time in Toledo was instrumental to his rise to fame. Upon its release, Major and Minors gained the attention of Harper’s Weekly, a respected national publication. The periodical’s favorable review of the book helped launch Dunbar to new levels of success.
Dunbar’s influence remained strong beyond his untimely death at the age of 33. The author, Maya Angelou, notably used the last line of Dunbar’s poem, Sympathy, to title her famous work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969.
In celebration of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s 150th birthday, TLCPL’s copies of Majors and Minors will be on display in the Local History and Genealogy department from June 24 – September 5, 2022. Browse and read a fully digitized copy of the work for free on TLCPL’s Digital Collections page.