Dandridge, Raymond Garfield 1882–1930

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Raymond Garfield Dandridge 18821930


At a Glance

Selected writings


Raymond G. Dandridge was nicknamed The Paul Laurence Dunbar of Cincinnati because his use of dialect and his subject matter closely matched that of 1900s poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar was the first famous African-American poet, known primarily for his dialect writing. Dandridge emulated Dunbars works, but he also took part in the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, using his art as a means for the social advancement of blacks. Despite his relative seclusion from Harlem, New York, and the world in general due to paralysis, Dandridge kept his poetry vivid and relevant. According to Winston V. Morrow in the forward to Dandridges second book The Poet and Other Poems, The winning fight of Mr. Ray G. Dandridgehas won for him a prominent place among the poets of the Ohio valley and a commanding position among the literary minded of his race.

Raymond Garfield Dandridge was born in 1882 in the suburb of Price Hill, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Attending the nearby Whittier Elementary School, he later went to Hughes Center High School at night so that he could work as a porter during the day at the local YMCA. An excellent runner and swimmer in high school, Dandridge remained physically active after graduation as a house painter and decorator, until he was partially paralyzed in 1911. The Cincinnati Enquirer claims that polio caused the paralysis of both his legs and his right arm, but other sources claim that he suffered a stroke. Bedridden, Dandridge taught himself how to write with his left hand. To make money to help support himself and his mother, Ellen C. Dandridge, who cared for him during his paralysis, he took telephone orders for Roger Kemper Rogans coal company.

Dandridge wrote poems from the time he was handicapped until his death. His poems were published in newspapers and magazines, and he acted as literary editor for the Cincinnati Journal. His friends published three volumes of his poems: Penciled Poems (1917), The Poet and Other Poems (1920), and Zalka Peetruza and Other Poems (1928). His early works focus on folk life and contain a joyful simplicity in the use of dialect, slang, and rhythm. Dandridge honed his poetry in later years to support the social liberation of African Americans. He is most remembered as a dialect writer, for deliberately misspelling words in order to reflect local pronunciation and usage. His most celebrated works, however, do not use this technique. He wrote about half of his poems in dialect, and the other half in common American English. Whether writing in dialect or conventional American language, Dandridge peels back the layers of social convention in his poems, revealing that which is simple and true.

Dandridge is simultaneously praised and criticized for imitating Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first nationally known African-American poet. Sterling A. Brown comments in Negro Poetry and Drama that his dialect poetry is conventional and crude, and his concern for misspelling is too great. Thus, for dialects sake he writes ruff, fashun, talk, campane and forces into dialect words that are uncomfortably out of place. But others find Dandridges use of dialect evocative of real life. One example of Dandridges dialectic poetry is from the poem True Fren: You sez dat ole frens am de best.

At a Glance

Born Raymond Garfield Dandridge in 1882, in Cincinnati, Ohio; died on February 24,1930,

Career: Poet, 1911-1930; worked at Roger Kemper Rogans coal company, 1910s; Cincinnati Journal, literary editor, 1920s.

Dandridges most famous pieces are not written in dialect, including Time To Die and Zalka Peetruza. The former calls African Americans out of slavery, the first line asking Black Brother, think you life so sweet //That you would live at any price? The latter gives a picture of an exotic dancer, whose appearances are deceiving: Mid swirling spangles, gauze and lace, //Her all was dancingsave her face. Dandridge died on February 24, 1930.

Selected writings


Penciled Poems, Powell & White, 1917.

The Poet and Other Poems, Powell & White, 1920.

Zalka Peetruza and Other Poems, McDonald, 1928.


Dandridges poems have been anthologized in Negro Poets and Their Poems (1923), An Anthology of American Negroes (1924), and The Book of American Negro Poetry (1931).



Brown, Sterling A., Negro Poetry and Drama, Arno Press, 1969, p. 39.

Coyle, William, ed., Ohio Authors and Their Books: 1796-1950, World, 1962, p. 152.

Harris, Trudier, ed., Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 51, Afro-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940, Gale Research, 1987, pp.54-59.

Johnson, James W. Book of American Negro Poetry, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1958, pp. 190-194.

Metzger, Linda, ed., Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors, Gale Research Inc., 1989, p. 133.

Valade, Roger M. III, The Schomberg Center Guide to Black Literature, Gale Research, 1996, pp. 118, 130.

Mary Le Rouge