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Free to Dance Dance Timeline

1890 Blacks are allowed into the stage production of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which premiered in 1852 with an all-white cast.

1899 Isadora Duncan debuts unsuccessfully in Chicago, then goes to Europe, where the successful Paris performance of her "free dance" concert the following year launches her career. Duncan, Loie Fuller, and Ruth St. Denis usher in a new era for dance.

1906 Ruth St. Denis premieres "Radha" at New York's Hudson Theatre.

1909 The NAACP is founded in the aftermath of the Canadian conference called by W.E.B. DuBois and other black leaders in 1905.

1913 "Darktown Follies," a musical at Harlem's Lafayette Theatre, introduces the wildly popular social dance "Ballin' the Jack" -- a "serpentine, circular, shuffling dance ... related to the plantation 'Ring Shout.'" Flo Ziegfeld puts the song and dance in his "Follies." Writer James Weldon Johnson says the show triggers " the beginning of the nightly migration to Harlem in search of entertainment."

1914 On August 13, Ruth St. Denis and her husband, Ted Shawn, open the Denishawn School and attract an impressive roster of students -- Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and African-American dancer/choreographer Edna Guy.

1918 World War I ends on November 11. The all-black 369th U.S. Infantry, the "Harlem Hell Fighters," receives the French Croix de Guerre. James Reese Europe, the musical arranger for white ballroom dancers Vernon and Irene Castle, is the conductor of its regimental band.


1919 - Lindy Hop
The Red Summer of 1919: 25 major race riots and 83 recorded lynchings occur this year. The Ku Klux Klan grows. Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association has more than 3,000 members.

At the end of World War I, black resistance to their second-class status increases. During the Great Migration, southern blacks flock to northern cities. Harlem's population swells to 200,000 by 1930. The new immigrants bring the dances popular in southern juke joints and honky-tonks, and before long, whites flock to the Savoy, Renaissance, and other dance halls to learn the "Black Bottom," the "Charleston," the "Lindy Hop," "Jitterbug," and more.

1920s The Hampton Institute Creative Dance Group is formed by Charles H. Williams, head of physical education. Its repertory includes abstract works inspired by Negro spirituals and traditional African dances of foreign students. Other traditionally black colleges also start concert dance companies.