Black Women Rising: Raven Wilkinson, 1st African American Ballerina to Receive a Full-Time Contract w/ Major Dance Company

02/06/2020 12:00 AM EST by WBLS Staff

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Born on February 2, 1935, native New Yorker Raven Wilkinson, at the age of 20, became the first African American woman to receive a contract to dance full time with a major ballet company, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo of New York City.

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During a dance tour, two members of the Ku Klux Klan bolted on stage, interrupting a Company performance in Montgomery, Alabama, asking “Where’s the nigra?” When none of the Company members responded to them, the men left. She was not allowed to participate in performances in Southern cities to ensure her own safety. In 1966 She became a soloist with the Dutch Ballet. In 1973 she returned to NYC and was an extra dancer at the NYC Opera until 1985. She died in 2018 at the age of 83 in NYC. Raven Wilkinson, thank you for dancing so that we may rise.

Still Broken: The Story of Raven Wilkinson

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