Virginia Taylor, A Hilltop Icon

Virginia Taylor had an expansive resume: businesswoman, activist, politician, community advocate, social worker, and publisher, which is only naming a few of her titles. In a Tacoma News Tribune interview, she stated she never set out to become a leader, but her interests in affirmative action and equality led her to serve on the boards and councils that sought to provide opportunities for women and BPIOC individuals.

Taylor moved from the Oakland California area to Tacoma in 1968 with her husband Cutine Taylor. Her concerns for women’s and civil rights issues prompted her to join such organizations as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, The Urban League, and United Way. In the 1970s, she cohosted a cable access talk show titled, “A Woman’s Place Is…” which discussed politics, society, and the changing roles of women in America at that time. The program was one of the first talk shows for women and was showered with praise. The show also had its critics. The “chauvinist of the week” segment, which singled out public figures who exhibited public sexist behavior, drew hate letters from men. She advocated nationally for women’s rights, working with Secretary of Labor Peter J. Marshall to develop a national policy for female construction workers. However, it was her extensive work in the Tacoma and South Sound area that she is most well known for.

In 1982 Taylor and her business partner Jean Watley set to work to produce a paper that focused on aspects of Tacoma’s Black community and Hilltop neighborhood. With $700 the two women started The Northwest Dispatch.  In a 2000 interview in the News Tribune, Taylor stated, “We wanted to have a voice for the community”. Throughout the paper's existence from 1982 to 1991 it “scrutinized political candidates, endorsed minority, women’s, and gay rights, and had been a source of news filled with what Taylor called ‘the hope-side'". In conjunction with the paper, she organized a summer internship program for young black males called “The Dispatch Bangers”. The Bangers worked delivering issues of the Northwest Dispatch, as well as doing odd jobs.

She worked closely with the Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective, a Black community civic group. Taylor convinced the Black Collective to purchase fashionable clothing and sneakers for Hilltop youths. She recognized the importance of fitting in at that age and thought having trendy clothing would boost their self-esteem. “She wanted them to move past just thinking of survival” Jean Waitly explained in a News Tribune article.

In the 1990s she embarked on an ambitious project to remodel and create a space for specialty clothing shops and a food court at 1102 Martin Luther King Jr Way, on Hilltop. Her strategy involved attempting to reverse Hilltop's negative trends at the time and entice shoppers back to the neighborhood. A Federal Way architect was hired to create plans that included a café, meat market, bakery, copy center, produce stand, ethnic food store, and clothing shops, all on the first floor. Even though Taylor was not able to secure financing to complete the project, it evolved into the successful Albert Canada Building/New Lock Apartments you can see today on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 11th. Near the end of her life, Lyle Quasim, executive Director of Safe Streets, was quoted in the News Tribune stating, “Literally, when Virginia speaks, everyone listens. She has such credibility in the African American Community and The Black Collective”.

Below are links to materials in our collection related to Virginia Taylor and the individuals and organizations she interacted with. If you have any questions about any of this material, please let us know! You can contact us via email at or by phone (253) 280-2814

Virginia Taylor (A variety of material related to Taylor)

The Northwest Dispatch

Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective Records

Communities -- Black Community (material relating to the local Black community)

Lyle Quasim, Executive Director of Safe Streets

1102 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Tacoma


  •  "Virginia Taylor, 'an icon' of Hilltop civic activism, dies" Cecilia Nguyen, Tacoma News Tribune February 3, 2001, p.1-A
  • “Friends gather to celebrate Virginia Taylor’s life” Cecilia Nguyen Tacoma News Tribune August 6, 2000, p.A1