Katherine Dunham


I’m posting these for those who have been asking me about the children’s alphabet book “A is for Angela.” It’s happening. It’s not my main focus at the moment but my sons seem to like the ones I’ve done so it shall be completed. :)  #StayTuned 


I will repost with new images when prints are available for purchase. I will also post a tentative release date for the book. 

Katherine Dunham, circa 1940s. Ms. Dunham formed Ballet Nègre, one of the first black ballet companies in America in 1930, long before she was famous. She once said of her work, “I admit that a strong sociological purpose motivates my work and that there is a real drive in my purpose to present good looking, talented, clean, healthy-minded and healthy bodied young American Negroes in a repertoire of dance mimes and sketches.“ Photo: Corbis.


Katherine Dunham in an undated photograph as Woman with a Cigar from Tropics. Alfredo Valenti, photographer. Credit: Special Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Often referred to as “ the matriarch and queen mother of black dance, “ Katherine Mary Dunham (1909 – 2006) ran the Dunham Dance Company, the only self-supported American black dance troupe at that time, for over 30 years. During that span of time, she choreographed more than ninety individual dances.

Check out Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities (LINK) for additional information.


Born on this day…

Katherine Dunham

dancer, choreographer, author, educator, and social activist

June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006


Island Possessed

Just as surely as Haiti is “possessed” by the gods and spirits of vaudun (voodoo), the island “possessed” Katherine Dunham when she first went there in 1936 to study dance and ritual. In this book, Dunham reveals how her anthropological research, her work in dance, and her fascination for the people and cults of Haiti worked their spell, catapulting her into experiences that she was often lucky to survive. Here Dunham tells how the island came to be possessed by the demons of voodoo and other cults imported from various parts of Africa, as well as by the deep class divisions, particularly between blacks and mulattos, and the political hatred still very much in evidence today. Full of the flare and suspense of immersion in a strange and enchanting culture, Island Possessed is also a pioneering work in the anthropology of dance and a fascinating document on Haitian politics and voodoo.

A Touch of Innocence: Memoirs of Childhood

An internationally known dancer, choreographer, and gifted anthropologist, Katherine Dunham was born to a black American tailor and a well-to-do French Canadian woman twenty years his senior. This book is Dunham’s story of the chaos and conflict that entered her childhood after her mother’s early death.

In stark prose, she tells of growing up in both black and white households and of the divisions of race and class in Chicago that become the harsh realities of her young life. A riveting narrative of one girl’s struggle to transcend the painful confusions of a family and culture in turmoil, Dunham’s story is full of the clarity, candor, and intelligence that lifted her above her troubled beginnings.

Photo 1

photo 2

Photo 3


Eartha Kitt talks getting into Katherine Dunham's Ballet Company, life before, and life after.

Happy Birthday Katherine Dunham! (June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006) American dancer, choreographer, author, educator, and social activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century, and directed her own dance company for many years. 

Portrait of dancer Katherine Dunham. Autographed on front: “To Flora and Charlotte Dresser, still the two charming ladies of Detroit. Katherine Dunham.” Handwritten on back: “Dunham, Katherine." 

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library