Browse: Collections Digital Content Subjects Creators Record Groups

Katherine Dunham papers

Overview

Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Adminstrative Information

Detailed Description

Correspondence

Dunham Company, School, Performing Arts Training Center, and Museum Records

Manuscripts and Printed Materials

Sheet Music

Collected Art

Photographs, Film, and Audio

Biographical Information, Scrapbooks, Notes, Calendars, Memorabilia


Katherine Dunham papers, 1906-2009 | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Email Us Contact Us About This Collection

Collection Overview

Title: Katherine Dunham papers, 1906-2009Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

Predominant Dates:1919-2005

ID: 3/RG 4/FP 20-7-F1

Primary Creator: Dunham, Katherine

Extent: 80.0 Cubic Feet

Arrangement: Organized into seven series:  (1) Correspondence; (2) Dunham Company, School, Performing Arts Training Center, and Museum Records; (3) Manuscripts and printed materials; (4) Sheet Music; (5) Collected Art; (6) Photographs, film, audio recordings; and (7) Biographical Information, Scrapbooks, Notes, Calendars.

Date Acquired: 00/00/1968. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Dance - Anthropological aspects - Haiti, Dancers - United States, Folk music - Caribbean area, Haiti - Social life and customs, Katherine Dunham Company, Quinn, Anthony, 1915-2001, Voodooism

Forms of Material: Baker, Josephine - Correspondence, Belafonte, Harry, 1927- - Correspondence, Duke, Doris, 1912-1993 - Correspondence, Dunham, Katherine - Correspondence, Handy, W.C., 1873-1978. - Correspondence, Langston, C.H. (Charles Hughes) 1821? - Correspondence, McQueen, Butterfly. - Correspondence, Photographs, Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976. - Correspondence, Scores., Scrapbooks, Sound recordings

Languages: English, Haitian;HaitianCreole, French

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Katherine Dunham Papers consists of correspondence, writings, scripts, notes on dance techniques, and musical scores that illuminate the extraordinary journey of a woman who changed the face of American modern dance. Her collection documents all aspects of her varied experience as an African-American anthropologist, dancer, choreographer, and educator.

Her personal correspondence makes up the bulk of this collection.  Among others, notable correspondents include Josephine Baker, Harry Belafonte, Doris Duke, W.C. Handy, Langston Hughes, Eartha Kitt, Butterfly McQueen, Anthony Quinn, and Paul Robeson.

This Collection also highlights Dunham's early explorations as an anthropologist in the 1930s when she studied a multitude of movement types and dance forms. However, it is Dunham's focus on the movements and dances of the African Diaspora that so influenced her development as a performer, choreographer, and teacher. Her papers also contain examples of music from her field research from Haiti recorded by Dunham and others.

Additionally, the collection consists of photographs documenting Dunham's remarkable career as a performer and choreographer for her company, which introduced African and Caribbean dance movement to the American public, as well as her manuscripts related to her published works The Dances of Haiti, Journey to Accompong, Island Possessed, and The Negro Dance.

Biographical Note

Anthropologist-dancer-choreographer, Katherine Mary Dunham was born in Chicago, June 22, 1909, the second child of Fanny June (Taylor) and Albert Millard Dunham who was a tailor and dry cleaner.  Katherine's mother died while she and her brother Albert Jr. were quite young, and several years later her father married Annette Poindexter, a schoolteacher from Iowa.  The family settled in Joliet, Illinois.

In 1928 Miss Dunham entered the University of Chicago where she majored in anthropology with emphasis on dance and its relation to cultures.  Dunham’s first public appearance as a dancer was at the Chicago Beaux Arts Ball in “A Negro Rhapsody” in 1931.  Her theatrical career matured in 1934 with her role of Reba in "Run Little Chillun” which she also directed.  That year Dunham danced with the Chicago Symphony's "La Guiablesse," appeared at the Abraham Lincoln Center for two weeks with the Negro Dance Group which she had established, and danced at the Chicago World's Fair.  She also began her first dance school, the Chicago Negro School of Ballet.  From 1935-1936, she received a fellowship form the Rosenwald and Guggenheim Foundations to do master's thesis research in Jamaica and Haiti analyzing native dances.  This research resulted in The Dances of Haiti (in Spanish and French), Island Possessed, Journey to Accompong, several articles, and a wealth of theatrical material.  Dunham married John T. Pratt on July 10, 1939 in Tecate, Mexico.  They adopted a daughter, Marie-Christine Dunham Pratt, when she was fourteen months old.  In 1950, she completed the purchase of an 18-acre tract of land near Port-au-Prince once owned by Pauline Bonaparte LeClerc and which contained the remains of her residence.

Dunham performed worldwide.  Some of her notable dance/choreography productions include “L’Ag’Ya” (1938), “Tropical Pinafore” (1939), “Le Jazz Hot,” “Tropics,” “Tropical Review” (1943), “Carib Song” (1945), “Bal Negre” (1946), “New Tropical Review” (1948), “Cakewalk” (1955), “Banboche!” (1962), “Caribbean Rhapsody” (1963), “Aida” (1963), and “Faust” (1965).  She also established several dance schools such as the Dunham School of Dance and Theatre in 1945, which later became the Katherine Dunham School of Arts and Research.  By 1966, she had schools in New York City (440 W. 42nd. St.) Stockholm, Paris, and Rome.

Katherine Dunham's relationship with Southern Illinois University (SIU) began July 23, 1964, when she was invited by the Vice President for Instruction, Charles D. Tenney, to spend an 11-week period as artist-in-residence.  Clifford Fears, the director of that dance school, was a former member of her troupe.  The culmination of her 11-week period at Southern Illinois University was the opera Faust, staged in February 1965.  Her tenure at SIU was interrupted in March 1965 with her appointment to the Harlem Cultural Council Steering Committee, and work in Paris doing choreography for “Deux Angles.  That same year she proposed a pilot project to the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) for East St. Louis.  She again resumed her association with Southern Illinois University in June 1967 as a visiting artist in the Fine Arts Division at the Edwardsville campus.  In December 1967 she was appointed Cultural Affairs Consultant in Public Administration and Metropolitan Affairs.

Katherine Dunham was also a social activist.  During a performance of “Tropical Review” in Louisville, Kentucky in 1944 she announced to the audience that she would not be back in Louisville until segregation in that theater was ended.  That same year she brought a discrimination lawsuit against the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago.  In 1950 she sued a Sao Paulo hotel for discrimination which eventually resulted in a national law forbidding racial discrimination in places of public accommodation.  Additionally, at her Haitian home, Dunham began a clinic called Habitation LeClerc for hungry and diseased Haitians.

Through the years she maintained her association with the sciences as well as the arts.  She was a member of the Women's Honorary Science Fraternity (1939) and the Royal Society of Anthropology, London.  Ms. Dunham died on May 21, 2006.

Subject/Index Terms

Dance - Anthropological aspects - Haiti
Dancers - United States
Folk music - Caribbean area
Haiti - Social life and customs
Katherine Dunham Company
Quinn, Anthony, 1915-2001
Voodooism

Administrative Information

Repository: Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Accruals: Accession 799 received in 2007; Accession 787 received in November 2008; Accession 988 received on October 26, 2011; Accession 2012_002 received on September 10, 2012; Accession 2015_021 received in October 2014; Accession 2019_003 received in early 2019.

Access Restrictions: Correspondence  between 1962 to 1968 may not be photocopied.

Use Restrictions:

To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any publication, including on the World Wide Web, any material from this collection, the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical property and (2) the holder of the copyright.  Persons wishing to quote from this collection should consult Special Collections Research Center to determine copyright holders for information in this collection.  Reproduction of any item must contain the complete citation to the original.

The library has limited information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Technical Access Note:

Use copies have not been made for all of the audiovisual materials at this time.  Researchers must contact the repository in advance for access to these materials.

Use copies of the wax cylinder recordings have been made.

Acquisition Method: Donated to Southern Illinois University Carbondale by Katherine Dunham.

Separated Materials: Other institutions that have some holdings related to Dunham and her work include the Library of Congress, New York Public Library and the Missouri Historical Society.

Related Materials: Katherine Dunham's FBI file has been digitized and is available at https://archive.org/details/KatherineDunhamFBIFile (accessed July 13, 2016).

Preferred Citation: [after identification of item(s)], Katherine Dunham Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Processing Information: Box 89 was redistributed into the other boxes of newsclippings, according to dates

Finding Aid Revision History:

The original boxes 80-84 contained photographs but were removed and processed into the Katherine Dunham Photograph Collection (UAPH 07).  These box numbers have been repurposed for the processing of additional Dunham accessions.

The following accessions were processed by Matt Gorzalski from August 2015 to May 2016: 799, 787, 988, 2012_002, 2015_021.


Box and Folder Listing


Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence, 1906-2005, 2009],
[Series 2: Dunham Company, School, Performing Arts Training Center, and Museum Records, circa 1927-2003],
[Series 3: Manuscripts and Printed Materials, 1921-2006],
[Series 4: Sheet Music],
[Series 5: Collected Art, circa 1870s-1967, 2000],
[Series 6: Photographs, Film, and Audio],
[Series 7: Biographical Information, Scrapbooks, Notes, Calendars, Memorabilia, 1936-1998],
[All]

Series 5: Collected Art, circa 1870s-1967, 2000Add to your cart.
This series contains drawings, paintings, photographs, sketches, prints, costumes, designs, and artistic ephemera by various artists.  Box 80 was formerly packages 1 and 2.
Box 41Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Carlis, undatedAdd to your cart.
Sketches of costume designs attributed to Carlis.
Folder 2: Costume Design Sketches, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 3: Darah Bharata Prints, 1919Add to your cart.
Collection of main characters from the Wayang poerwa.
Folder 4: Drawings by and of Katherine Dunham, 1946-1947, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 5: Paintings (Middle Eastern or Indian), undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: Karl Priebe Drawings, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 7: Japanese Art Prints, undatedAdd to your cart.
Gift to Katherine Dunham
Folder 8: Reference Prints, Costumes of the 1870s, circa 1870sAdd to your cart.
Folder 9: Referenece Prints, Costumes and Set Designs, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 10: "Rosamunde" Reproductions of Costume and Figure Prints, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 11: Set Designs, undatedAdd to your cart.
Possibly by John Pratt
Folder 12: Set Designs, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 13: Sketches, circa 1940s, 1965Add to your cart.
Sketches of people and costumes, some by John Pratt.
Folder 14: Art, undatedAdd to your cart.
Originals and reproductions.  Mostly sketches of people and human figures.
Box 80Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Watercolor of Katherine Dunham by James E. Lewis, 1946Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Watercolors of African-American Dancers by V. [Barjansky]?, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 3: "Pharaoh's Daughter" by [Morgan]?, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 4: Watercolors of African-American Dancers, possibly for Costume or Character Design, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 5: Watercolors of Costumed African-Americans by R. P. B., circa 1963-1967Add to your cart.
Folder 6: Watercolors of Sea Life, a Chicken, and Black Madonna, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 7: Sketches of Human Figures and Objects, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 8: Pencil Sketches of Dancers, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 9: Costume and Character Design Sketches, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 10: Costume and Character Design Sketches, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 11: Costume and Design Sketches, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 12: Costume and Design Sketches, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 13: Costume and Design Sketches, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 14: Costume and Design Watercolors, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 15: Costume Designs and Scene Sketches, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 16: La Comédie Française Reference Prints for Costume Design, circa 1888Add to your cart.
Box 81Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Watercolors and Drawings of Dancers by Pierre Thiriot, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 2: Colored Pencil and Craft Picture of Katherine Dunham by [Duaneua Evan]?, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 4: Art Gifted to Katherine DunhamAdd to your cart.
Some of this art was gifted in support of Dunham's Haiti fast and/or hunger strike.
Folder 6: Miscellaneous Art, undatedAdd to your cart.
Artist names include F. LaCoy, G. Churchill, Don Dowling, P. Curel, James, Morris, T. Dowling, and J. D. Curtis.
Folder 7: Sketches, 1964Add to your cart.
Item 1: Framed Item, Japanese Print of Women in Bathhouse, undatedAdd to your cart.
Item 2: Framed Item, "Mother Africa" by M. Burroughs, 2000Add to your cart.
Likely Margaret Taylor-Burroughs
Map Case 14Add to your cart.
Map Case Drawer 4Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Sketches and Paintings of African DancersAdd to your cart.
In Map Case Room: Case 14, Drawer 4, Folder 3.
Folder 4: Sketches and Paintings of African DancersAdd to your cart.
In Map Case Room: Case 14, Drawer 4, Folder 4.
Folder 5: Sketches and Paintings of African DancersAdd to your cart.
In Map Case Room: Case 14, Drawer 4. Folder 5.
Folder 6: Sketches and Paintings of African DancersAdd to your cart.
In Map Case Room: Case 14, Drawer 4, Folder 6.
Folder 9: Sketches and Paintings of African DancersAdd to your cart.
In Map Case Room: Case 14, Drawer 4, Folder 9.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence, 1906-2005, 2009],
[Series 2: Dunham Company, School, Performing Arts Training Center, and Museum Records, circa 1927-2003],
[Series 3: Manuscripts and Printed Materials, 1921-2006],
[Series 4: Sheet Music],
[Series 5: Collected Art, circa 1870s-1967, 2000],
[Series 6: Photographs, Film, and Audio],
[Series 7: Biographical Information, Scrapbooks, Notes, Calendars, Memorabilia, 1936-1998],
[All]

Page Generated in: 0.223 seconds (using 300 queries).
Using 3.27MB of memory. (Peak of 3.58MB.)

Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-2.1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign