Katherine Dunham (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Dunham, an ethnologist-choreographer-dancer, served as a catalyst and a creative force in theater and dance, translating cultural heritage through theater pieces. Her theories and techniques of movement are used by choreographers and dancers throughout the world.
Katherine Dunham was born on June 22, 1909, to Fannie June Buckner, an assistant school principal of American Indian, French-Canadian, and African lineage, and Albert Millard Dunham, a man of Malagasy and Madagascar descent who was twenty years younger than his wife. The Dunhams lived in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a white middle-class suburb. Katherine’s mother, who had five children from a previous marriage, became ill with cancer soon after Katherine’s birth and died when Katherine was four years old. Since the property holdings went to Fannie’s adult children after her death, Albert Dunham was left with few financial resources with which to cope with the responsibility of rearing Katherine and her ten-year-old brother, Albert, Jr. Her father sold his tailoring business and became a traveling salesman, leaving the children in the care of his relatives. First, the children lived with his sister Lulu, a beautician; later, they stayed with an aunt and uncle who directed musical shows and brought Katherine into direct contact with show business people.
When her father remarried, Katherine and her family moved to Joliet,...
(The entire section is 2385 words.)
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