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Ruth Beckford

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Information about Ruth Beckford

Profile image of Ruth Beckford

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Choreographer
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
All Colors
Favorite Food:
Chinese Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Favorite Quote:
Let Go And Let God.

Birthplace

Born:
12/7/1925
Birth Location:
Oakland, California

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Choreographer
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
All Colors
Favorite Food:
Chinese Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Favorite Quote:
Let Go And Let God.

Birthplace

Born:
12/7/1925
Birth Location:
Oakland
See how Ruth Beckford is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Ruth Beckford was born on December 7, 1925, in Oakland, California, to Cora and Felix Beckford. She began dancing at age three with Florelle Batsford, who taught Beckford ballet, flamenco, hula, baton, toe-tap and acrobatics over the next 15 years. In 1943, Beckford toured with the legendary Katherine Dunham.

After graduating from Oakland Technical High School in 1944, Beckford began studying with Anna Halprin and Welland Lathrop. She was the first African American member of their companies. In 1947, Beckford became the first black member of the Orchesis Modern Dance Honor Society at the University of California, Berkeley and she founded the first recreational modern dance department in the United States at the Oakland Department of Parks and Recreation that same year. In 1950, she helped found the Oakland Dance Association.

In 1953, Beckford taught at the Katherine Dunham School in New York and opened the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company. She helped found the Black Dance Association in 1965, and in 1970 she played a similar role for the Cultural Ethnic Affairs Guild. She also served as a dance panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. Beckford closed her dance studio in 1975, but still continued to perform. She began acting with the Oakland Ensemble Theatre, where she co-wrote, produced and starred in "'Tis the Morning of My Life," an off-Broadway success. She played major roles in television shows and film, including Angels in the Outfield, The Principal, and Midnight Caller.

Beckford turned her attention toward serving the less fortunate members of society in 1990. She counseled homeless people at the Berkeley office of the Department of Social Services until 1997, when she became a life skills counselor at the Oakland Private Industry Council. In 2000, she became the president of the African American Museum Library Coalition.

Ruth Beckford was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 31, 2002.

See how Ruth Beckford is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ruth Beckford interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford's favorite things
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford remembers her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford describes her mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford cannot recall how her parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes her siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford recalls early memories of dance and music
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford recalls growing up in north Oakland
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford describes race relations in her childhood neighborhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes her childhood personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ruth Beckford describes her first formal dance training
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ruth Beckford describes the different styles of dance she studied as a child
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Ruth Beckford talks about her elementary school experience
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Ruth Beckford talks about her early success as a dancer
  • Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Ruth Beckford further describes her childhood personality
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford talks about feeling free from societal pressures
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford briefly discusses the positive environment in her neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford recalls a notable solo dance recital from her childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford recalls the effects of the attack on Pearl Harbor
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes dancing in USO shows during World War II
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford discusses the changing racial makeup of her neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford describes her high school experience
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford recalls briefly fulfilling her ambition to be a singer
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford describes a variety of her dance performances
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ruth Beckford talks about meeting and auditioning for Katherine Dunham
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ruth Beckford discusses her experience in Katherine Dunham's dance company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford explains what she learned from being in Katherine Dunham's dance company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford discusses her success studying Modern dance with Anna Halprin and Welland Lathrop
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford describes how her versatility helped her excel in Modern dance
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford talks about her first job
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford describes teaching a recreational dance class for inner-city children
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford explains why she chose not to finish her degree at the University of California at Berkeley
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford describes how she mentored the students in her dance classes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford believes some dancers are not true to their art
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford discusses the prevalance of interracial marriage in the African American dance world
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ruth Beckford briefly recalls how her parents felt about her work
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ruth Beckford explains why she doesn't regret not having her own children
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford talks about instilling discipline in her dance students
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford briefly mentions when she started her own dance company
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford explains how her experience in Haiti helped make her dances authentic
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford describes a favorite of the dances she created
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford details her creative process for choreography
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford talks about incorporating Haitian influences into her dance classes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford explains why she taught separate classes for separate dance styles
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford describes her various volunteer playwrighting projects
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford discusses the similarities between Haiti and Africa
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ruth Beckford explains why she is satisfied with her retirement from dancing and teaching
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Ruth Beckford talks about her artistic relationship with dancer Alvin Ailey
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Ruth Beckford explains how she became involved in theater after retiring from dance
  • Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Ruth Beckford talks about her foray into film acting
  • Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Ruth Beckford describes putting on her first play
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford details the plot and production of her trilogy of plays, 'Tis the Morning of My Life'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford discusses her various film projects
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford discusses her duties as president of the African American Museum Library Coalition
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford compares the black artistic communities in Oakland and San Francisco
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford discusses the declining Oakland theater scene and her attempts to revive it
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford talks about writing Katherine Dunham's biography
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford details the writing and publishing of her book 'Still Groovin': Affirmations for Women in the Second Half of Life'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes her unpublished book
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford talks about her friendship with Maya Angelou
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford briefly defines what makes a true artist
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford discusses the black artist's role in American art
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford discusses the importance of hip-hop dance
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford believes dance has become too concerned with technical prowess
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes her interest in arts and crafts
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford voices her concerns for young African Americans, particularly young women
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford discusses her legacy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford on the power of women's friendships
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - Ruth Beckford's father, Felix Beckford, Sr., Oakland, California
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Ruth Beckford as a small child, Oakland, California, ca. 1930
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Studio photo of Ruth Beckford, ca. 1934-1935
  • Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Studio photo of Ruth Beckford performing an acrobatic dance move, ca. 1939
  • Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Ruth Beckford presented flowers at the Ruth Beckford Awards ceremony
  • Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Photos of Ruth Beckford, Alfre Woodard and others at the premier of 'Funny Valentines', Hollywood, California, 1999
  • Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Ruth Beckford celebrating the publication of her cookbook, California, ca. 1983
  • Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Ruth Beckford performing 'Bamboche' as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company
  • Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Ruth Beckford doing the splits, ca. 1935
  • Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Ruth Beckford's parents, Cora and Felix Beckford, Sr., at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, California, 1915
  • Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Ruth Beckford's sister, Roselyn Beckford Perry
  • Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Ruth Beckford's father, Felix Beckford, Sr., and twin brothers, Fowler and Felix Beckford
  • Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - Reproduction of Ruth Beckford's high school graduation photo from Oakland Technical High School, Oakland, California, 1943
  • Tape: 6 Story: 22 - Photo - Reproduction of photo showing Ruth Beckford with Katherine Dunham at the University of California, Berkeley, 1976
  • Tape: 6 Story: 23 - Photo - Reproduction of photo showing Ruth Beckford teaching a dance class at DeFremery Recreation Center, Oakland, California
  • Tape: 6 Story: 24 - Photo - Ruth Beckford with Robert Taylor performing 'Banda' as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company, Berkeley, California
  • Tape: 6 Story: 25 - Photo - Dancers performing a zombie dance as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company
  • Tape: 6 Story: 26 - Photo - Dancers performing 'Combite' as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company
  • Tape: 6 Story: 27 - Photo - Ruth Beckford and her dance partner performing with a live chicken as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Photo - Ruth Beckford performing 'Loa Erzilee' as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Photo - Program from Ruth Beckford's induction into the Oakland Parks and Recreation Hall of Fame, Oakland, California, June 10, 1980
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Photo - Publicity photo of Ruth Beckford and Billy Hutton from her stage play 'Tis the Morning of My Life'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Photo - Commendation certificate to Ruth Beckford from the Berkeley Oakland Support Services, Berkeley, California, ca. 1990s
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Photo - Cover of Ruth Beckford's book, 'Still Groovin': Affirmations for Women in the Second Half of Life', 1999
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Photo - Cover of Ruth Beckford's book, 'Katherine Dunham: A Biography', 1979