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1954 The Supreme Court's landmark decision in BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA tolls the death knell for "separate but equal" education in the United States.

Alvin Ailey and Carmen de Lavallade appear at the Jacob's Pillow Festival and later accept an invitation to appear in the black Broadway musical "House of Flowers." The musical's stellar cast includes Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll, Juanita Hall, Geoffrey Holder, Louis Johnson, Donald McKayle, Arthur Mitchell, and many others.

Katherine Dunham's New York dance school closes.

1955 On December 1, Rosa Parks refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy, is brutally murdered in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

Donald McKayle joins Martha Graham's company on a State Department-sponsored tour of the Near and Far East.

Thelma Hill becomes the ballet mistress for Ward Flemyngs' Ballet Americana.

1956 Arthur Mitchell becomes the first Black member of the New York City Ballet.

1957 On October 20, Paul Taylor's experimental "Seven New Dances" at the 92 Street YMHA reduces dance to its minimum, forecasting the Judson Movement.

The Broadway show "Jamaica" opens starring Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban, with Alvin Ailey and Cristyne Lawson as lead dancers. Louis Johnson is the assistant choreographer.

Donald McKayle dances in Leonard Bernstein's hit Broadway musical "West Side Story."


1958 - Alvin Ailey
Martin Luther King, Jr. is stabbed in New York; he survives.

Alvin Ailey, dancing in the Broadway show "Jamaica," teams up with Ernest Parham, Talley Beatty, and other Broadway dancers for a one-night concert at the 92nd Street YMHA on March 30. NEW YORK TIMES critic John Martin calls the program "an impressive debut" and praises Ailey's premiere of "Blues Suite."

1959 RealPlayer
Donald McKayle creates "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder," a protest-dance about southern chain gangs with music sung by Leon Bibb. (Click on the video clip icon at left to watch a excerpt from "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder.")

Pearl Primus is named Director of Liberia's Performing Arts Center.


1960 - "Revelations"
Sit-ins begin in Greensboro, North Carolina triggering others throughout the South.

Malcolm X is seen as the reason membership in the Nation of Islam grows to 100,000 in 33 temples.

The Clarke Center for the Performing Arts, in the YWCA at 51st Street and 8th Avenue, becomes home to the Ailey company: James Truitte, Thelma Hill, Pepsi Bethel, Lavinia Williams, Rod Rodgers, Fred Benjamin, and others.

The Primus-Borde School of Primal Dance opens in New York.

On January 21, Alvin Ailey gives a second concert at the 92nd Street Y and premieres his timeless masterpiece "Revelations" sending shock waves and signaling the arrival of a powerful new voice. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT), one of the first racially integrated companies, forever alters the American modern dance landscape.

1961 Freedom Summer: busloads of civil rights organizers descend on the South for a massive voter registration drive. Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes integrate the University of Georgia, but subsequent rioting by whites results in their suspension.

1962 As voter registration drives continue in the South, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other protestors are arrested during the Albany, Georgia sit-ins.

On July 6, Concert of Dance #1 launches the post-modern Judson Dance Theater, which historian Sally Banes calls the "seedbed for post-modern dance." Later, African Americans Bill T. Jones, Gus Solomons, jr., Blondell Cummings, Bebe Miller, and others make their mark on this new dance movement.

The AAADT tours the Far East for the U.S. State Department. This is the first of many such engagements that will sustain the company even when there are no bookings back home.