Queer Places:
Protestant Cemetery Capri, Città Metropolitana di Napoli, Campania, Italy

Blanche Dunn (1905-1979) was an American socialite and actress of the Harlem Renaissance era. Photographs of her taken by Carl Van Vechten are numerous, and the writer and painter Richard Bruce Nugent wrote about her.

Blanche Dunn was born in Jamaica in 1905 and arrived in New York City in 1926. She had a role in the Broadway show Blackbirds of 1930 and the film The Emperor Jones (1933). She became a mainstay of the Harlem social scene, attending parties, galas, and Broadway opening nights.[1] Writer Richard Bruce Nugent notes that "a party was not a party, a place not a place, without Blanche."[2] She lived for a time in 1940 at Whale Cay in the Bahamas with speed boat racer Joe Carstairs.[3][4] Dunn posed several times for photographer Carl Van Vechten between 1924 and 1941,[1] notably in 1941 for his series Portrait Photographs of Celebrities.[3] She eventually married and moved to Capri, Italy.[1]

Blanche Dunn was exceptional as a foreign resident, in that she was black, albeit rather ashamed of the fact and given to powdering and plastering herself, in order to look a bit lighter. Born in Jamaica, she had lived for many years in Harlem, where she had been a successful dancer and great friend of the actress and singer Elizabeth Welch. Blanche continued to enjoy Capri and give good parties, until in 1979 after a stroke she died in her sleep. Although Blanche was an unbeliever, a caprese married-couple who were fond of her arranged for her burial in the Catholic cemetery with a life-size bronze of her head to stand beside the tomb.

by Carl Van Vechten

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