About this Collection

[Katherine Dunham, dancer, three-quarter length portrait] (top to bottom) Katherine Dunham as Woman with a Cigar from Tropics, by Alfredo Valenti; Katherine Dunham in the 1940 Broadway hit production of Cabin in the Sky; Katherine Dunham in Le Jazz Hot, originally presented in 1939; Katherine Dunham in a 1952 photograph of Floyd's Guitar Blues.

This collection consists of moving image materials that document the extraordinary journey of a woman who changed the face of American modern dance. The Collection highlights Dunham’s early explorations as an anthropologist in the 1930s as she observed 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. The collection contains examples of field research from Haiti, Trinidad, Martinique, and Jamaica, filmed by Miss Dunham and others. Also contained in the Collection are films documenting Miss Dunham's remarkable career as a performer and choreographer for her company, which introduced African and Caribbean dance movement to the American public, and videotapes of her workshops that demonstrate her remarkable teaching abilities.

This online Katherine Dunham Collection presentation makes available a selection of photographs from the Library of Congress, The Missouri Historical Society, and Southern Illinois University; film and videotape excerpts from Dunham's research and performing career; and selections from the Library's Dunham Legacy Project that documented the Dunham dance technique. In addition, a complete inventory of the Collection is included.

Please note: some of the black and white images have been colorized for this presentation.