Dunbar Park is 21.80 acres and is located in the Douglas Community. The park features four baseball diamonds, athletic fields, picnic groves, tennis courts, a running track, a batting cage, an interactive water feature and a reading garden. In summer 2016, the park's northern playground was renovated as part of Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago Plays! Program.
Dunbar Park is an active community park. While there is no structured programming taking place at this location, we invite you to check out the great programs offered at nearby Williams Park.
The elegant south side Douglas community became densely populated during World War I, as an influx of African-Americans from the rural south settled there. Many lovely mansions were quickly divided into multiple unit apartments to accommodate the large numbers of new arrivals to the area. The Douglas community went through further decline during the Great Depression and experienced additional population increases during World War II.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a number of neighborhood revitalization initiatives emerged. Among them, the Lake Meadows Apartments were created by private developers and included 2,000 new housing units, shops, and a commercial building. In 1956, the Board of Education constructed Paul Dunbar High School nearby. Four years later, the Chicago Land Clearance Commission worked with the Chicago Park District to create an adjacent park. The Chicago Park District acquired the 20-acre site from 1958-1963 as land was acquired and streets and alleys were vacated to expand the park, and transformed into Dunbar Park between 1964 and 1966.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), one of the nation's first critically acclaimed African-American authors, was popular with white and black audiences alike. The son of former slaves, Dunbar was raised in Dayton, Ohio. Although he was the only African-American student to attend public high school there, he was selected as editor of the school paper and president of the literary society.
While working as an elevator operator, Dunbar self-published his first book of poetry, Oak and Ivy, selling copies to passengers to underwrite the costs. In 1893, Dunbar was invited to Chicago to recite poetry to audiences at the World's Columbian Exposition. Publishing two more volumes of poetry, Dunbar began giving readings throughout the United States and England. He went on to publish nine more books of poetry, five novels, four short story collections, and a play before his death at the early age of 33.