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Berea College Special Collections and Archives

The Sport of the Gods

1901 - 1902

The Sport of the Gods was Paul Laurence Dunbar's fourth, final, and most successful novel. It initially appeared in the May 1901 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. Dodd, Mead and Company published a monograph version one year later. The book's storyline portrays the hardships experienced by a black butler and his family when his white employer charges him with theft. 

Berea College Special Collections and Archives holds both formats of this work. To access them in the reading room, request Curio D889sp or Curio D899spo.

An online version is available through this Google Books link.

From The Sport of the Gods


    The arrest of Berry Hamilton on the charge preferred by his employer was the cause of unusual commotion in the town. Both the accuser and the accused were well known to the citizens, white and black, — Maurice Oakley as a solid man of business, and Berry as an honest, sensible negro, and the pink of good servants. The evening papers had a full story of the crime, which closed by saying that the prisoner had amassed a considerable sum of money, it was very likely from a long series of smaller peculations.

    It seems a strange irony upon the force of right living, that this man, who had never been arrested before, who had never even been suspected of wrong-doing, should find so few who even at the first telling doubted the story of his guilt. Many people began to remember things that had looked particularly suspicious in his dealings. Some others said, “I didn't think it of him." There were only a few who dared to say, “I don't believe it of him.”

    The first act of his lodge, “The Tribe of Benjamin," whose treasurer he was, was to have his accounts audited, when they should have been visiting him with comfort, and they seemed personally grieved when his books were found to be straight. The A. M. E. church, of which he had been an honest and active member, hastened to disavow sympathy with him, and to purge itself of contamination by turning him out. His friends were afraid to visit him and were silent when his enemies gloated. On every side one might have asked, Where is charity? and gone away empty.

    In the black people of the town the strong influence of slavery was still operative....

Paul Laurence Dunbar. Public Domain.