December 5, 2020

Alice Dunbar Nelson

Alice Ruth Dunbar Nelson- “Co-Founder of White Rose Mission & Author”

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History was an African American woman named Alice Ruth Moore born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and raised in a Creole community.

Her parents were Patricia Wright, a formerly enslaved African American woman and seamstress, while her father was a Creole seaman named Joseph Moore.

In 1895, she published her first book titled Violets and Other Tales. It was soon after that she met and began corresponding with established author and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. They got married on March 6, 1898, in Manhattan, NY, but the marriage was short lived due to Dunbar being sick from pneumonia, tuberculosis and even alcoholism which led to much domestic violence. The couple ended up separating. No one knows if the separation would have led to a divorce because Paul Laurence Dunbar passed away after fighting illness for years.

Alice Ruth Dunbar then married again to a physician, Henry Callis, but that ended in divorce as well, but when she met and married author and activist for civil rights Robert J. Nelson. This was her final marriage, and it lasted until death.

Although Alice wore for a multitude of magazines and papers, she was never compensated much for her work. This frustrated her so much until she, of course, wrote about it as well. Her diary was published in the 1980s and it spoke to the issues of black women, family, career and even finances along with other issues that affected her and others.

Not only did she write a diary, but she co-edited Wilmington Advovate, a black progressive newspaper and she also published The Dunbar Speaker and Entertainer which was a black literary anthology, full of prose about African Americans.

During her life, she also co-founded the White Rose Mission, a home for girls. She co-founded the Mission when she was in in New York City, prior to her marriage to Paul Laurence Dunbar. While in NYC, she became a major part of the Harlem Renaissance.

Alice passed away on September 18, 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and buried in Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware. She as 60 years old.

More of Alice Dunbar Nelson’s books are as follows:

  • Violets and other Tales
  • The Goodness of Saint Rocque
  • Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence

Little Known Facts about Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson:

  • She passed away from Bronchitis Pneumonia according to her death certificate, listing it as the primary cause of death based on autopsy. The Secondary cause of death was listed as Cardiac Decompensation.
  • She was buried on September 24, 1935.
  • She passed away before her husband.
  • Her second husband (Henry Callis) was younger. He was 24, and she, 33, when they married in Delaware.

Sources: Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967 (Ancestry), Delaware Marriage Records, 1806-1933 (Ancestry), New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937 (Ancestry)