Books by and
about Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham Dancing a Life
Island Possessed /
Black Dance from 1619 to Today /
A Touch of Innocence: A Memoir of Childhood
Dances of Haiti /
Equality For A Lightning Bug: A Small Collection of Poems
Journey to Accompong
Kaiso!: Writings by and about Katherine Dunham /
Katherine Dunham: Pioneer of Black Dance
* * *
(22 June 1909
– 21 May 2006)
was born June 22, 1909, in
Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Her parents--Albert
Millard Dunham, a tailor and Fanny June Guillaume Taylor, an
assistant principal -- afforded her a rather middle class
existence. As a teenager her life became a bit rocky with her
mother's death, her father's remarriage, and with her father
being a strict disciplinarian.
In 1928, Katherine Dunham, with help from her brother Albert
Jr., moved to Chicago and began classes at the University of
Chicago. Dunham would later earn bachelor, masters and doctoral
degrees in anthropology. more
* * *
St. Louis Plans Big Tribute
Lincoln Middle School Gymnasium
12 South 10th Street — noon to 3 pm
East St. Louis
Famed dancer and Choreographer Katherine Dunham died last week
at the age of 96. But this city
her adopted hometown
is making sure she's not forgotten anytime soon.
On Tuesday, organizers announced
that a citywide tribute to the civil rights activist,
anthropologist and publisher will be June 22
what would have been her 97th birthday — Lincoln Middle School
Gymnasium — 12 South 10th Street — noon to 3 pm.
Eugene Redmond, who
heads the committee planning the event honoring his friend of
nearly four decades, said the celebration is to include
testimonials by people influenced by Dunham, the namesake of the
technique melding movements from traditional African and
Caribbean dance styles.
The event titled
"Katherine Dunham: a Familial Memorial Celebration," also is to
feature dancers and drummers, Redmond said. "It will be a
celebration of her life and an ode to her legacy," said Redmond,
who also serves as vice president of the board for the local
Katherine Dunham Centers for Art and Humanities.
Charlotte Ottley, a former aide to
Dunham, said that culturally, this is a boost East St. Louis
needs, and it will happen. Dunham, who died May 21 in an
assisted living center in New York city, called East St. Louis
home for more than 30 years. She once pressed a cultural crusade
that some credited with putting gang leaders in leotards. At the
time, she called on everyone to share her love for the arts and
"something more constructive than genocide."
Dunham moved to New York in 1999.
But Ottley said Dunham had planned to move back to the area for
good next month before her 97th birthday bash at St. Louis'
Missouri History Museum, also scheduled for June 22. That event
will follow the East St. Louis tribute.
Dunham's body has been cremated and
a private service by the family was held Friday at the Frank E.
Campbell Funeral Chapel, a worker there said Tuesday. Dunham's
husband, John Pratt, died in East St. Louis in 1986.
News-Democrat (Wednesday, May 31, 2006)
* * *
Region Sparkles With Katherine Dunham’s
‘Leg-a-cy’ Amidst Renewal of Her ‘Vision’
EAST ST. LOUIS TO HOST ‘MEMORIAL CELEBRATION’ FOR
THE ‘EMPRESS’ ON JUNE 22 AT LINCOLN MIDDLE SCHOOL
(Day of ‘Memory’ & ‘Honor’ Includes Tours of Katherine Dunham
By Dawn Orisha
Special to the World
East St. Louis, Illinois—Katherine Dunham, a
multi-tiered genius known as “the Duke Ellington of dance,” will
be celebrated during a memorial “afterglow” from noon to 3 p.m.
on Thursday, June 22, at Lincoln Middle School, 12 South Tenth
Street at Broadway Avenue. Called “Katherine Dunham (1909-2006):
A Familial Memorial Celebration,” this homage to the “Empress”
is free to the public.
(Lincoln School’s outstanding alumni include
Attorney-philanthropist Peggy (Gregory) Newman, musicians
Eugene Haynes, Miles Davis, Reginald Thomas, and Russell Gunn,
athletes LaFonso Ellis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee [who took
classes in Dunham Technique at the Mary Brown Center in the
1970s], Ambassador Donald McHenry, National Black
Theatre founder Barbara Ann Teer, vocal stylist Leon
Thomas, former Peace Corps administrator Reginald Petty,
and writers John Hicks, Jerry Herman, and Darlene Roy.)
In 1967—after more than 30 years of studying, performing,
consulting, filmmaking, and championing humanitarian causes in
60 countries—the anthropologist-dancer-author opened her
Performing Arts Training Center in East St. Louis, one of her
“three spiritual homes.”
The former PATC Complex, including a
residence and namesakes Museum/Children’s Workshop, is located
on North Tenth Street, a. k. a. Katherine Dunham Place. The
public is invited to tour the Museum (KD Place and Pennsylvania
Avenue) from 9:30 to 11:30 am on June 22.
Among the first wave of students, artists, consultants,
administrators, and instructors at PATC—part of Southern
Illinois University’s Experiment in Higher Education
program—were dancers Darryl Braddix, Valerie (Howard)
Adams, and Ron Tibbs; poets Henry Dumas, Sherman Fowler
and Eugene B. Redmond; filmmakers Reginald and Warrington
Hudlin; translator Jeanelle Stovall; drummers Mor
Thiam and Rene Calvin; activists Taylor Jones III and
Charles Koen; musicians Bernie Dunlap and Julius
Hemphill; and singer-actors Oscar Brown, Jr. and Camille
(During the 1970s, Julliard-trained
pianist-composer Eugene Haynes served as PATC’s director.)
The June 22 event will include an invocation by a
97-member drum ensemble (led by PATC-trained
percussionists Sylvester Sunshine Lee and Arthur Moore), dance
numbers by certified teachers of Dunham Technique, readings of
proclamations and telegrams from global dignitaries and
organizations, testimonials from Dunham protégés and devotees,
poetic recitations, film clips, photo exhibits, and musical
A sampling of speakers/participants includes ESL Mayor Carl
Officer, Illinois Rep. Wyvetter Younge, US Cong. William Lacey
Clay (St. Louis), Top Ladies of Distinction (national) President
Peggy LeCompte, and Illinois Sen. James Clayborne.
According to Fowler, one of the organizers of the Memorial
Celebration, the June 22 event “will put us on the road to
achieving a primary goal of Miss Dunham’s—that of placing East
St. Louis at the cultural, educational, and artistic center of
Echoing Fowler’s sentiments, Charlotte Ottley, consultant for
Katherine Dunham Legacy Affairs, noted: “The ‘Memorial
Celebration’ will be a once in a lifetime experience for all of
us who have shared the magic of Katherine Dunham: those who
remember ‘when,’ the ones who succeeded against the odds in the
struggle for institutional survival, and others committed to the
future by keeping her legacy alive. Miss Dunham would love our
unity, love and collective energy. I'm looking forward to making
the world take a second look at East St. Louis, Illinois as
re-energized by Miss D’s enormous legacy."
The Board of Directors of the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts
and Humanities is overseeing the memorial. KDCAH President Dr.
Lena Weathers said she is "very grateful for the outpouring of
support, especially from School District 189, and extremely
pleased with the way things are falling into place for this
international memorial celebration." (East St. Louis Poet
Laureate Redmond, also a member of the KDCAH board, is chairing
the memorial planning committee.)
ESL poet Darlene Roy, another member of the planning committee,
noted Miss Dunham’s “mystique—and ‘Technique’—still informs (and
forms) us as we pledge to tuck-point her institutions and stoke
the fires of her awesome legacy.”
Persons desiring to help with expenses for the June 22 memorial
may send checks or money orders to Katherine Dunham Centers for
Arts and Humanities (KDCAH), 532 North Tenth Street at Katherine
Dunham Place, East St. Louis, Illinois 62201. Those wanting to
make repetitive long-term contributions in support of the
Katherine Dunham Legacy (Museum, Children's Workshop, upkeep of
properties) should send tax-deductible donations online to
A 7 p.m. post-memorial program in the Lee Auditorium of the
Missouri History Museum—at Lindell and DeBaliviere in St. Louis’
Forest Park—is also free to the public, and will include
performances, exhibits, and testimonials. Information: 314
Miss Dunham, who died May 21 in New York City, is survived by a
daughter, Marie-Christine Dunham-Pratt; a nephew, Kaye Lawrence
Dunham; a goddaughter, Kati Stovall; and former designer and
longtime friend Madeline Preston. All survivors will attend the
June 22 celebration.
Miss Dunham’s husband, John Pratt, died in 1986 in East St.
For more information about the East St. Louis Memorial, contact
Eugene B.Redmond—Chair, Katherine Dunham Familial
Memorial Celebration Committee—at 618 650-3991; Email:
Source: (Courtesy of
Drumvoices/EBR Writers Club Grapevine News Network)
* * * *
* * *
Arts and Humanities
Dunham Place at 10th Street East St. Louis, Illinois
(618.531.0403 fax: 618.271.0519
Now let's invest in making it a lasting one!
Dunham renowned dancer-choreographer-anthropologist-author,
performed on stage (and screen) in 62 countries during 30 years
of touring. For nearly 40 years she ahs made East St. Louis
(Illinois) her home
a hub of cultural influence attracting the world attention.
The Dunham centers need your help. Please select one of the
following ways you or your organization can support.
Fundraiser/ Love Offering
Scholarships for Young Artists-in-Training
Become a KDCAH
Volunteer (Recruitment, Clerical, PR)
Provide & Solicit
Donations for Upkeep of Dunham Museum
Assist in Renovation of the KD Children's
Directors: Dr. Lena J. Weathers, Eugene Redmond, Laverne
Wizard, Johnny Campbell, LLC, Riley Owens, Theodore Wofford,
Charlotte Ottley, Liaison.
This is a tax exempt 501c. 3 not for profit
organization. All donations are tax deductible.
* * *
Katherine Dunham Dancing a Life
By Joyce Aschenbreener
Throughout the better part of the twentieth
century and in performance halls, classrooms, and communities
throughout the world, Katherine Dunham's remarkable career can
be traced to the intersection of dance, culture and society.
More than a recounting of Dunham's accomplishments as a
dancer and choreographer, this biography is the first to examine
thoroughly her pioneering contributions to dance anthropology
and her commitment to humanizing society through the arts
||Founder of the first self-supporting
African American dance company, Dunham relied on her
fieldwork as an anthropologist to fundamentally change
modern dance. She shaped new dance techniques and
introduced other cultures to U.S. and European audiences
by fusing Caribbean and African-based movement with
ballet and modern dance.
Her revolutionary approaches
to dance and its connection to the world influenced a
generation of dancers, theatrical performers, and
scholars. She believes that dancing involves the
development of an entire person and that the rituals and
traditions of dance are integral to the study of culture.
Throughout her career, she has been a living model of the
socially responsible artist working to whet cultural appetites
and combat social injustice.
Building on Dunham's published memoirs--A Touch of
Innocence (1969; 1980) and Island Possessed (1969;
1994)--Joyce Aschenbrenner's multifaceted portrait blends
personal observations based on her own interactions with Dunham,
archival documents, and interviews with Dunham's colleagues,
students, and members of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company.
|Integrating these sources, Aschenbrenner
characterizes the social, familial, and cultural
environment of Dunham's upbringing and the intellectual
and artistic community she embraced at the University of
Chicago that laid the groundwork for her development as
a dancer, anthropologist, and humanitarian. The book
vividly depicts Dunham's and her dancers' touring
experiences and includes detailed descriptions of her
community cultural and educational programs in East St.
"Katherine Dunham: dancing a
Life is extremely important because there is no other book
available that adequately addresses this artist/anthropologist's
vast contribution to American culture. Although Dunham's impact
on American dance is as great as Martha Graham's, most
historians and critics have not given her work the attention it
so richly deserves. Joyce Aschenbrenner's deeply researched book
is a treasure trove of new information and a labor of love and
Malone, author of
Steppin' on the Blues
||"This anthropological biography is a
unique labor of love celebrating the roles and
contributions of Katherine Dunham. For almost thirty
years, Joyce Aschenbrenner, herself an established
anthropologist, has been personally and professionally
involved with ms. Dunham and Dunham Company programs.
Thus, the usual participant-observation fieldwork
methodologies and directed and nondirected interviews
employed by anthropologists have been enriched by
Aschenbrenner's long-term, multifaceted experiences.
"This long-awaited biography contributes
greatly to understanding of this powerful African American woman,
her pioneer work in dance anthropology, and her continuing efforts
to use the arts to challenge injustice whenever possible."
--Charlotte J. Frisbie,
professor emeritus of anthropology at Southern Illinois University
|The Wisdom of Katherine Dunham
I used to want the words
"She tried." on
my tombstone. Now I want "She did it."
If you dance, you dance because you
have to. Every dancer hurts, you know.
Go within every day and find the inner strength so
that the world will not blow your candle out.
The best career advice given to the young is:
"Find out what you like doing best and
get someone to pay you for doing it."
I always believed that if you set out to
be successful, then you already were.
I wasn't concerned about the hardships, because
I always felt I was doing what I had to do, what
I wanted to do and what I was destined to do.
We weren't pushing Black is
beautiful. We just showed it.
* * *
Aschenbrenner, professor emerita of anthropology at Southern Illinois
University at Edwardsville, is the author of Katherine Dunham: Reflections on
the Social and Political Contexts of Afro-American Dance and Lifelines:
Black Families in Chicago. She is coeditor of The Processes of Urbanism:
A Multidisciplinary Approach and acting curator and education coordinator of
the Katherine Dunham Museum.
Illinois Press 1325 South Oak Street, Champaign, IL 61820
Fax: (217) 244-8082
* * *
Selections from the Katherine Dunham Collection at the Library of
The Katherine Dunham Collection
consists of materials purchased from the archives of the Dunham
Centers in East St. Louis, Illinois, and is made possible through a
grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Collection
comprises 1,694 items in a variety of video/motion picture formats.
It documents many aspects of Dunham’s dance career: her work as a
choreographer, her dance technique and teaching method, various of
her performances and productions, and her anthropological analysis
of the dance and ritual of the African diaspora. The Collection also
testifies to her global activism and leadership in the field of
human rights and her advocacy of African American causes in her
The materials in this
collection are housed and available for use in the Motion Picture,
Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Reading Room. Viewing requests
should be directed to the MBRS Reading Room at 202-707-8572. Items
should be requestedusing the “Motion Picture ID#” given in this
document. The numbers found in the field labeled “Tape #” are only
included for use in provenance tracking. (Those are the numbers that
were on the tapes at the Dunham Center Archives in East St. Louis.)
Continued . . .
* * *
A Life in Dance
By Vicky Risner
Dance Specialist, March 2004
Although long recognized as a
major force in American dance, Katherine Dunham (22 June 1909 – 21
May 2006) is less a household name than some of her contemporaries
such as Martha Graham or George Balanchine. Nonetheless, her
creative influence is just as profound. In addition to her
theatrical career, Dunham did pioneering work in the field of dance
anthropology and founded a school that embodied multi-cultural
principles decades before the term was used in the field of
Born in 1909 in Chicago,
Katherine Dunham is an American dancer-choreographer who is best
known for incorporating African American, Caribbean, African, and
South American movement styles and themes into her ballets. As a
young dancer and student at the University of Chicago, she chose
anthropology as her course of study. The union of dance and would
have a profound impact on her choreographic style throughout her
Mrs. Alfred Rosenwald of the
Julius Rosenwald Fund attended one of Dunham’s dance concerts (some
say at the urging of Erich Fromm, a friend and mentor of Dunham’s at
the University of Chicago) and became fascinated with the young
dancer’s ideas about dance and its potential for understanding other
cultures. As a result, Dunham was awarded a Rosenwald Fund
Fellowship to study the dance forms of the Caribbean under the aegis
of the University of Chicago’s anthropology department and Melville
J. Herskovits, head of the anthropology department at Northwestern
University. Thus began Dunham’s historic journey in American dance.
Dunham’s original goal was to
analyze the dances of the Caribbean, but she soon recognized that
this was much too extensive a task for one trip. Her revised agenda
included a stop in Jamaica to study a Maroon village, which resulted
in her first book,
Journey to Accompong.
This was followed by visits to several other islands before her
arrival in Haiti where she stayed for nine months. Her work in Haiti
resulted in her thesis, “The Dances of Haiti: Their Social
Organization, Classification, Form, and Function” and another book,
Island Possessed. These pioneering dance/anthropology works were
significant first steps toward the now recognized sub discipline of
Continued . . .
* * * *
Dancer Katherine Mary Dunham
St. Louis, MO (KPLR)—Katherine
Mary Dunham was born June 22, 1909 in Chicago, Illinois.
From the moment she took her first steps, it was
apparent she would become dance's "Katherine the Great."
In her late teens she took up formal dance but attended
the University of Chicago on a scholarship to study
anthropology. After graduation she made her way to the
West Indies to study both of her loves.
"So she went to Cuba. She went to Haiti. She went to
Jamaica, to study the dance that the inhabitants did
there. Because they were a part of the French and
Spanish in those cultures and allowed them to practice
their African roots." said Director of the Katherine
Dunham Dance Center Ruby Streate.
Dunham's dancing feet took her around the globe and back
to Haiti on numerous occasions. She even set up a
residence for some time. Her dance company employed as
many as 40 members touring extensively. Sometimes
stepping on toes to break down racial barriers. Her fame
gained in Europe and she showcased her troupe in film.
Most notably the breakthrough musical "Stormy Weather"
in 1943. She continued to dance, teach and perform in
the then segregated South. But it was the 1960's she
answered the call to help once again.
It's been said, dance is a delicate balance between
perfection and beauty. Katherine Dunham did both with
grace and ease.—KPLR
Katherine Dunham—Stormy Weather /
Katherine Dunham en haar dansgroep
Dunham—Living St. Louis /
Katherine Dunham—Shango (1945)
Katherine Dunham on "Shango" /
Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham 1988
* * * *
* * * * *
Aké: The Years of Childhood
By Wole Soyinka
Aké: The Years of Childhood is a
memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and
lyrical account of one boy's attempt to
grasp the often irrational and
hypocritical world of adults that
equally repels and seduces him. Soyinka
elevates brief anecdotes into history
lessons, conversations into morality
plays, memories into awakenings. Various
cultures, religions, and languages
mingled freely in the Aké of his youth,
fostering endless contradictions and
personalized hybrids, particularly when
it comes to religion. Christian
teachings, the wisdom of the ogboni, or
ruling elders, and the power of
alternately terrify and inspire him
carried equal metaphysical weight.
Surrounded by such a collage, he notes
that "God had a habit of either not
answering one's prayers at all, or
answering them in a way that was not
In writing from a child's perspective,
Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and
unfiltered honesty while escaping the
adult snares of cynicism and
intolerance. His stinging indictment of
colonialism takes on added power owing
to the elegance of his attack.
* * * * *
Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism
By Derrick Bell
In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.
Civil rights lawyer Geneva
Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers
* * * * *
So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America
By Peter Edelman
If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.
The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage
growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse
results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood.—
* * * * *
Allah, Liberty, and Love
The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom
By Irshad Manji
In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times.
prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from
expressing their need for religious
reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about
openly supporting liberal voices within Islam? How
did we get into the mess of tolerating intolerable
customs, such as honor killings, and how do we change that noxious status quo?
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
14 July 2012