What Shall the Negro Dance About?

  • Glenda E. Gill


What shall the Negro dance about?” asked Hemsley Winfield after a dance performance at the Harlem YMCA in October 1933. The question is a metaphor for all African American performing artists who faced, throughout the twentieth century, overwhelming discrimination, but triumph on the stage. Those performers who have been most fulfilled and respected were those who had a strong sense of identity as African Americans and who, at some point in their careers, either danced, sang, wrote about, or performed dramatic roles that showed this strong sense of identity They resisted racism in their daily lives and in the theatre. They demanded that African Americans be represented authentically on the stage.


Twentieth Century Black Male Black College Black Actor Dance Performance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works Cited

  1. American Dance Festival. The Black Tradition in American Modern Dance. Essays compiled by Gerald E. Meyers and Stephanie Reinhart (distributed in 1991 to National Endowment for the Humanities participants in the American Dance Festival activities at Duke University in “Interpreting the African American Experience Through the Performing Arts, 1890–1990”).Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, Michael. “A Landmark Lesson in Being Black,” The New York Times 7 March 1999, 7 and 28.Google Scholar
  3. Asante, Kariamu Welsh. Entry on Judith Jamison in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing Company, 1993, 631–632. Entry on Josephine Baker in the same book, 75–78.Google Scholar
  4. Aschenbrenner, Joyce. Entry on Katherine Dunham in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing Company, 1993, 363–367.Google Scholar
  5. Cose, Ellis. “The Good News About Black America (And Why Many Blacks Aren’t Celebrating),” Newsweek, 7 June 1999, 28–40.Google Scholar
  6. Dunning, Jennifer. “Talley Beatty, Who Depicted Inner City Life in Dance, Dies,” The New York Times 1 May 1995, B-11.Google Scholar
  7. Estrada, Ric. “Pearl Primus,” Dance Magazine Nov. 1968, n. p.Google Scholar
  8. Fletcher, Winona Lee. Letter to author. 11 Feb. 1994.Google Scholar
  9. Gill, Glenda E. “A History of the American Negro Theatre, 1940–1949,” Class, Feb. 1987, 30–32.Google Scholar
  10. Gill, Glenda E. “The Alabama A. and M. Thespians, 1944–1963: Triumph of the Human Spirit,” The Drama Review, winter 1994, 48–70.Google Scholar
  11. Guines, James T. Telephone interview with author. 4 July 1993. [Bill T. Jones]
  12. Hall, Stuart. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage Publications, 1997.Google Scholar
  13. Hatch, James V. Sorrow Is the Only Faithful One: The Life of Owen Dodson. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.Google Scholar
  14. “Josephine Baker Is Dead in Paris at 68,” The New York Times Biographical Service Apr. 1975, 410–411.Google Scholar
  15. Kaplan, Deborah. “Learning ‘to Speak the English Language’: The Way of the World on the Twentieth Century American Stage,” Theatre Journal 49, 1997, 301–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Krasner, David. Resistance, Parody and Double Consciousness in African American Theatre, 1895–1910. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997 (courtesy of Michael Flamini)Google Scholar
  17. Mitchell, Loften. Black Drama. San Francisco: Leswing Press, 1967.Google Scholar
  18. O’Neal, Frederick Douglass. Personal interview with author. 24 June 1980.Google Scholar
  19. Ploski, Harry, and Warren Marr. The Afro-American. New York: The Bellwether Company, 1977.Google Scholar
  20. Rule, Sheila. “Frederick O’Neal, 86, Actor and Equity President,” The New York Times, 27 Aug. 1992, B8.Google Scholar
  21. Stearns, David Patrick. “Ailey Troupe Stays in Step at 40,” USA Today, 31 Dec. 1999, 8D.Google Scholar
  22. Thompson, Sister M. Francesca. “The Lafayette Players, 1917–1932,” in The Theater of Black Americans, vol. II., ed. Errol Hill. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1980, 13–32.Google Scholar
  23. Webb, Christopher M. “Staging the Classics: A Survey of Reviews,” final examination submitted for HU531 Reading Literature: Slaves of Passion,Winter Quarter, 1998–1999, 8 Apr. 1999.Google Scholar
  24. White, Jack E. “The Beauty of Black Art,” Time, 10 Oct. 1994, 66–73.Google Scholar
  25. N.B. I use the term Negro in this chapter because it is historically appropriate.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Glenda E. Gill 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenda E. Gill

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations