L’il Gal
- Dunbar, Paul Laurence

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Commentary

L’il Gal was the first of the Dunbar volumes to be photographed solely by Leigh Richmond Miner. When the HICC rejected Dodd, Mead & Co.’s request for a fourth book in April 1904 to be completed by July, rather than let the project founder, Miner took on sole responsibility for the photographs. Miner was originally the school’s art teacher from 1898-1904, and took on various roles including landscape designer and official photographer prior to his retirement in 1933.

Miner’s professional experience as a photographer certainly impacted both on the quality of the photographic illustrations and on the interpretative subtleties of their pairings with Dunbar’s poems. As such, with the volumes illustrated by Miner, it might be argued that the more subversive elements of Dunbar’s verse are allowed dialogue with the photographs, rather than bowing to the overriding visual agenda of the images.

That said, Andrew Heisel accentuates how it is not until after Li’l Gal that a shift in emphasis actually occurs, and suggests that this is ‘perhaps because this initial Miner volume was intended as a children’s book.’ Heisel cites a notice in the New York Times, several months prior to the publication of Li’l Gal, advertising the release of a book of Dunbar’s ‘negro lullabies and songs about children’ to be called Cabin Lullabies. (Andrew Heisel, ‘What to do with “Southern Negro types” in Dunbar’s Hampton volumes,’ Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry, vol. 28, no. 3 (2012), 243-256, 256. See also, ‘About Authors: What Some of Them are Saying, Writing, or Planning,’ New York Times, April 23, 1904, BR288.)

Book Details

Author: Dunbar, Paul Laurence
Title: L’il Gal
Publication Year: 1904
Poets Featured: Dunbar, Paul Laurence
Photographers Featured: Miner, Leigh Richmond

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