The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Darlene Blackburn

Share on Social Media

Information about Darlene Blackburn

Profile image of Darlene Blackburn

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Choreographer
Dancer
Dance Instructor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Purple
Favorite Food:
Mangoes
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Africa, Caribbean
Favorite Quote:
If You Work Hard, You Can Achieve Whatever You Want.

Birthplace

Born:
7/12/1942
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Choreographer
Dancer
Dance Instructor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Purple
Favorite Food:
Mangoes
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Africa, Caribbean
Favorite Quote:
If You Work Hard, You Can Achieve Whatever You Want.

Birthplace

Born:
7/12/1942
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Darlene Blackburn is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Dancer and dance instructor Darlene Blackburn was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 12, 1942. Her mother, Cora, was a homemaker and her stepfather, Richard, worked for the Ford Motor Company. The oldest of four children, Blackburn attended the Chicago Public Schools, earning her high school diploma in 1960. She later returned to school, earning her B.A. degree from Northeastern Illinois University in 1984 and her M.S. from Chicago State University in 1987.

Blackburn began dancing at an early age, and was heavily influenced by some of her teachers, including Jimmy Payne, Tommy Sutton, Lucille Evans and Tommy Gomez. In 1963, she first started becoming aware of her blackness through Phil Cohran, her life mentor, and that same year she founded the Darlene Blackburn Dance Troupe. Influenced by Margaret Burroughs to study ethnic dance, Blackburn traveled to Jamaica in 1967, studying with the Jamaica National Dance Company. She continued to study foreign dance techniques, spending time in Ghana and Nigeria in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Returning to the United States, Blackburn became the Artist-in-Residence at Purdue University in 1974, and she remained there until 1976. The following year, she, along with ten members of her dance troupe, were invited to Lagos, Nigeria, to participate in the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. Following the enthusiastic response to their performance, Blackburn was invited to become the Artist-in-Residence at the University of Calabar in Nigeria, where she remained for the next three years. In 1983, Blackburn and her dancers began working with Urban Gateways – an arts education agency - in Chicago, and over the next few years they sent her throughout the Caribbean to study dance.

Blackburn has worked as a dance instructor at a number of institutions, including the Calumet Career Preparatory Academy, the Chicago Boys and Girls Club, the Goodman Theatre and Mostly Music, Inc. She has also served as choreographer for a number of productions, including “Benito Cereno” at the Goodman Theatre and “The Lion and the Jewel” at the University of Chicago. She has also been honored numerous times, including receiving the Outstanding Achievement in Dance award from Ladies of Distinction and the Alyo Award from the Muntu Theatre of Chicago.

See how Darlene Blackburn is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Darlene Blackburn's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her mother's family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her mother's family background, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn describes her mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn describes her stepfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn describes her parents' dancing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn describes her earliest memories of singing and dancing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Darlene Blackburn describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood in Chicago, Illinois' Morgan Park neighborhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Darlene Blackburn describes growing up in the Morgan Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Darlene Blackburn describes her early childhood interest in art in elementary school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn talks about joining the Girls Scouts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn describes transitioning from living in Morgan Park to Englewood in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn talks about being the new girl in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn describes attending Copernicus Elementary School in Englewood in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn describes traveling alone around Chicago, Illinois as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn describes trying to hide bad conduct grades from her mother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn describes attending Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn describes the atmosphere in Chicago, Illinois' Englewood community while she was in high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about teaching her first dance classes
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Darlene Blackburn describes her studies in Chicago Teachers College's physical education department
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Darlene Blackburn talks about teaching dance classes and deciding to become a dancer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn describes the dance scene in Chicago, Illinois and her mother's reservations about her becoming a dancer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn talks about dancing in clubs on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn describes meeting percussionist Master Henry Gibson
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn talks about HistoryMaker Philip "Phil" Cohran
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn talks about On the Beach
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn talks about artists she knew in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn talks about On the Beach and the beginnings of the Afro-Arts Theater
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn talks about Amiri Baraka's visit to the Afro-Arts Theater
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about political and racial tensions surrounding the Afro-Arts Theater
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Darlene Blackburn talks about efforts to keep the Afro-Arts Theater operational
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn talks about the Black Arts community in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn talks about performances at the Afro-Arts Theater and the expected lifestyle of its artists
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn describes her family's reactions to her lifestyle
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn reflects on black pride
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn reflects on creative experimentation
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn talks about yoga instructor Asar Hapi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn talks about the decline of the Afro-Arts Theater
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her first trip to Ghana in 1969
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about losing her identity as a dancer while performing with HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn talks about deciding to return to Chicago, Illinois after studying under HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn talks about the Black Panthers and the Afro-Arts Theater
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn reflects on the atmosphere of the Afro-Arts Theater crowd
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her 1971 trip to Nigeria
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn talks about the origins of the Muntu Dance Theatre
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn talks about auditioning for HistoryMaker Ossie Davis' musical, 'Purlie'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn talks about touring with the musical 'Purlie'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn talks about taking dance classes in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her style of dancing
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn talks about dance technique and avoiding injury
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn talks about attending Festac 77 in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn talks about attending Festac 77 in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn talks about living in Nigeria for two years
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn talks about teaching dance after returning to the U.S. after living in Nigeria
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn reflects on the arts and transitioning to focusing on choreographing
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her dance philosophy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Darlene Blackburn reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Darlene Blackburn talks about how her parents feel about her career
  • Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Darlene Blackburn reflects upon how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn narrates her photographs, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn narrates her photographs, pt. 2