Personality and Facts
Miss Dunn is a kind and intelligent woman. She does not like divisions of class between her students and is frequently shown as chiding Harriet Davis with regards to her actions. Addy is quite impressed with her and sees her as a role model from the first day they meet; she thinks she is smart, with words smooth and as polished as pearls. She often says not to be a tattle tale, but does punish students for misbehavior, such as eating during class.
It is unknown how old Miss Dunn is other than she is likely relatively young, but she was formerly enslaved and came from North Carolina with her family to freedom. She had never gone to school before her family came north, but she studied and learned well enough to go to the Institute for Colored Youth and study to be a teacher.
In the Books
Miss Dunn is introduced to Addy by Sarah Moore on Addy's first day of school. Addy notices how she walks in with her head held high and how she seems to glide under her skirts. She tells Addy she is pleased to meet her and says that while things may start out strange and confusing, Addy will learn her way. She introduces herself to the class and, after a brief speech, sets everyone up with desk partners, saying she will make permanent desk partners the next day. Sarah is paired with Addy to help her learn; as Addy is practicing letters she encourages her and then writes her name for Addy to practice on her slate. The next day, Miss Dun pairs Addy with Harriet Davis.
She encourages Addy after her first spelling test by pointing out how many she got right, rather than focusing on how many she got wrong.
At school one day, Miss Dunn discuss the war and the progress; she says to the class that they must show support for the soldiers and that the school is going to the Baltimore Depot to send off a troop of colored soldiers. When Sarah asks why there must be a war, she pauses and says that people sometime fight for what they believe is right even when they don't want to. After Harriet says that Sarah should be grateful for the war because it's freeing the slaves, Miss Dunn tells her that will be enough as nearly every colored person used to be a slave. When Harriet says that her family has always been free, Miss Dunn looks tense and then says that almost all colored people came as slaves--even if they aren't now. One of the reasons a war is going on is because of the lines people have put between colored people and white people--a line of slavery. She tells Harriet that people don't need to cause any more lines to be drawn between people and that there do not need to be differences made between who is and is not a slave. The class agrees; Miss Dunn then addresses Harriet directly and gets an embarrassed yes in response. She then has the class line up with their desk partners to go to the depot.
Miss Dunn leads the spelling match at school and when Addy wins, she smiles at her and pins the medal to her shirt.
Miss Dunn has offered to write the wedding date and Ben and Ruth Walker's names and wedding date on a patch on the quilt. She also is willing to teach Addy how to embroider with embroidery silks. She tells a half truth to Momma to be able to stay after school and embroider, saying it's a special project.
After school, Mrs. Dunn shows Addy the embroidery silks. Addy watches as she pulls the fabric taut, then neatly writes on the patch. When Addy says she hopes she can make her stitching as nice as the handwriting, Miss Dunn assures her she can as she's a fast learner. After showing her some stitches, she says that if she works steadily all week, she'll be finished in time for the wedding. Addy works slowly so as not to mess up the silks, watching Miss Dunn doing her tasks around the classroom--more work than Addy thought there was. She volunteers to do several of the chores--bringing in kindling for tomorrow's fire, sweeping the floor, and putting the seats in place--so Miss Dunn can go to a meeting.
When she comes over to see Addy's progress, she compliments her on the embroidery and the broom applique she has placed on the quilt. When Harriet insists that slave ways should stay in the past and Addy stands up for herself, Miss Dunn says she she couldn't have said it better and that while slavery is over, memories about things such as jumping the broom are about who their families and they (Black people) are. She then asks if Harriet agrees in a firm voice, to which Harriet quietly mumbles that she does.
Miss Dunn keeps Addy and Harriet after class to inform them both she's been recommended to attend the Institute for Colored Youth. She gives Addy a letter to give to her parents.
In the play in Seattle, Miss Dunn was played by a multi-character actress. She is not changed much from the original stories and is only seen for the most part through the first half of the play.