JUNE 22, 1909
Esteemed choreographer, activist and educator Katherine Dunham was born in Joliet, Illinois. For more than 30 years, she directed the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, the only self-supported black dance company in America at the time.
She was often called the “Mother of Black Dance.” In the 1940s, Dunham’s troupe traveled across America, even performing in the segregated South. After discovering that African Americans were not allowed to buy tickets to one of her shows, she refused to perform.
She received a standing ovation after a performance in Louisville, Kentucky, but following the performance she made an announcement that she would never perform there again because the manager would not allow black and white people to sit next to each other. She also expressed a hope that this would one day change.