Black History Month
Black History month was founded in the 1970’s, but its roots began in the 1920’s. The celebration for black history month began as Black History Week, which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson(a noted African-American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher. It became a month long celebration in 1976. This month is dedicated to remembering the history of adversity that the black community faced in America as well as celebrating black excellence and resilience. We would like to celebrate the wonderful works and performances of the black community within the performing arts; including music, film, broadway, and of course DANCING!
Firstly, music! The black community has had a major impact on music genres, as well as creating genres that were unique to anything else at the time. Such genre’s include Spiritual/Gospel, Blues, Jazz, Rock and Roll, R&B, Soul, Funk, Reggae, Rap, and Afro beats. Some artists we often think of are the “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald and the renowned Louis Armstrong, the famous trumpeter and singer. For the wonderful elated and eccentric tunes of blues, we consider Aretha Franklin. With Rock and Roll, we cannot forget the amazing Tina Turner. There are countless others; Sam Cooke, Etta James, Smokey Robinson, NWA, WC Handy, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, & James Brown.
Within film, there are many influential actors. The first African American actor to receive a screen credit was Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry. He is also the first black actor to become a millionaire. Sydney Poitier, whose Academy Award for the 1963 film ‘Lilies of the Field’ made him the first Black performer to win in the best-actor category. He rose to fame during the civil rights movement. His roles tended to reflect the peaceful integrationist goals of the struggle. On Broadway, Shuffle Along in 1921 marked the first full-fledged Broadway musical with an all-black cast. In 1950 Juanita Hall became the first black performer to win a Tony award. In 1975 Geoffrey Holder made history with The Wiz by becoming the first African American director to win Best Director of a Musical as well as first to win Best Costume Design in a Musical.
Lastly, DANCE! Dance trends influenced by the black community include the cakewalk, the charleston, the lindy hop, the jitterbug and the forever iconic twist. There are quite a few types of ballroom dances that were heavily influenced by the black community. One of the most prominent being swing! Some very prominent black dancers in American history include: Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (father of tap dance 1878-1949) who starred in movies with Shirley temple, Josephine Baker (renowned abroad, especially for her sensual and passionate dance and choreography 1906-1975), and Katherine Dunham (named by some historians the most important woman of African American Dance 1909-2006).
We are happy to celebrate black history month with you all and to recognize some of the many artists who have so heavily influenced the performing art community! We are thankful for how they have impacted the arts and will continue to dance in order to continue their legacies. We hope you will join us soon!