Inducted 2023

Born: Franklin, Kentucky, April 15, 1896

Died: Hopkinsville, Kentucky, January 1972


Blanche Taylor Dickinson was a poet, short story writer and journalist whose poetry was published in a number of magazines and newspapers in the 1920s and has been widely anthologized with other Black poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

Dickinson was born in Franklin, Kentucky, on April 15, 1896 to a farmer, Thomas Taylor, and his wife, Laura. She attended segregated schools in Simpson County, Bowling Green Academy and Simmons College in Louisville and taught for several years in Black schools. She married truck driver Verdell Dickinson (1898-1978). One of her earliest published poems appeared in the local newspaper, The Franklin Favorite, in July 1925. At the time, Dickinson and her husband were living in his hometown of Trenton in nearby Todd County. 

Exactly two years later, the couple was living in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and she was among a number of Black writers and artists featured in the magazine Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life.  In the magazine’s annual literary awards two months earlier, she had received a Buckner prize for “conspicuous promise” and for her poem “A Sonnet and a Rondeau.”

“As far back as I can remember I have had the urge to write poetry and stories,” Dickinson told the magazine. “My mother says that her youthful dreams were based on the same idea and perhaps she gave it to me as a pre-natal gift. I do write a salable story once in a while and an acceptable poem a little oftener. The American Anthology (Unicorn Press), just released, contains three of my poems. I am intensely interested in all the younger Negro writers and try to keep in touch with them through the Negro press.”

Over the next three years, her poetry would be published in numerous magazines, including Opportunity, W.E.B. Du Bois’ The CrisisCaroling Dusk and newspapers including the Chicago Defender, the Louisville Leader, the Longview (Texas) News Journal, and the Pittsburgh Courier.  In 1929, two white poetry magazines, The American Poet and Bozart, published her work. Since then, her work has been included in several anthologies of Harlem Renaissance poets.

In the late 1920s, Dickinson wrote regularly for the Pittsburgh Courier, publishing short fiction, including a four-part romantic serial “Nellie Marie from Tennessee.”  She also wrote news notes columns for the Courier called “Smoky City’s Streets” and “Valley Echoes.” She interviewed aviator Amelia Earhart in 1929 for the Baltimore Afro-American.

Much of Dickinson’s poetry reflected upon the difficulty of Black women’s lives in the 1920s. It commented on racism, class, patriarchy and standards of beauty determined by white culture. “In her poem ‘Fortitude,’ Dickinson portrays the woman of the silent scream, the denial of her person, and her acceptance with a countenance of pride and a broken spirit,” Helen R. Houston wrote in the book, Black Women of the Harlem Renaissance Era (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

Her literary output stopped about 1930. The 1940 census showed her back home in Kentucky, living with her father and a widowed aunt and working as a school teacher. That census listed her as a widow. But according to other records, her husband, who was two years younger, didn’t die until 1978, in Pittsburgh.  In later years, she went by the name Patty Blanche Taylor, which is how her tombstone reads.

She died in January 1972 at age 75 at Western State Hospital in Hopkinsville. Records after her death show she had little money. Earl Burrus, a Black community leader and funeral director in Franklin, had established a fund for her benefit. She is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery in Simpson County.

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