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Black Dance at the Schomburg: A Visual History

As part of her Black Dance at the Schomburg series, Communications Intern Kiani Ned takes a look inside the Schomburg Center's Digital Collections to uncover some of our most fascinating gems.

Dance has been used by black people as a means to communicate celebration, mourning, anger, resistance, pain, and healing. In the same way that a person may communicate their ideas with words, it is possible to communicate those same ideas with movement and action. Like any verbal language, dance continues to evolve, expand, and transform as the people who use it do. Located in the Digital Collections of the New York Public Library, one can find over a hundred digitized archival materials alluding to the language of dance as told by black people.

 1955131
Le Cake-Walk. Danse au Nouveau Cirque, LES NEGRES. Photo postcard of man dancing with top hat and cane. Image ID: 1955131
 1955135
Cake Walk.Tinted postcard of young boy and girl in dance pose, boy holding top hat, girl in dipped position. Image ID: 1955135
 5062801
Maude Russel and her Ebony Steppers - 1929 Cotton Club show Just A Minute. Image ID: 5062801
 5058649
Unidentified couple, probably Lindy Hoppers, dancing at an unidentified nightspot, 1930s. Image ID: 5058649
 5050423
Dancer and choreographer Asadata Dafora with Musu Esami, as the bridegroom and bride, in his dance-musical production Kykunkor, 1934. Image ID: 5050423
 1706630
Exotic dancers from the Cotton Club Parade, featured at the Cotton Club, Broadway and West 48th Street, New York, ca. 1938. Image ID: 1706630
 1260310
African American soldiers and their peer civilians dancing in the hall of a recreational facility. Image ID: 1260310
 5529318
Ballet dancers John Jones and Delores Brown performing at Lincoln Center, New York, ca. 1950s. Image ID: 5529318
 5529298
Dancers John Jones and Concetta De Prospero, performing on rooftop, when they were members of choreographer Antony Tudor's dance class at the Ballet Guild, Philadelphia, ca. 1954. Image ID: 5529298
 5211526
Poster advertising an exhibition of Black Dance in Photographs at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in 1982. Image ID: 5211526

Interested in exploring more black dance at the Schomburg? Check out Black Dance at the Schomburg: The Black Iris Project

Find newspaper clippings about black dance in the U.S. and abroad in the Jean Blackwell Huston Research and Reference Division:

And books about black dance and dancers in the Jean Blackwell Huston Research and Reference Division:

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