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

Larry Ridley

Jazz musician and music professor Larry Ridley was born on September 3, 1937 in Indianapolis, Indiana to Lawrence and Nevolena Ridley. He was taught to play the violin at the age of five, but later became interested in jazz music and learned to play the bass. Ridley graduated from Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. He went on to attend Indiana University in 1955, but completed his B.S. degree at New York University in 1971. He earned his M.A. degree in cultural policy from the State University of New York Empire State College in 1993, and his Ph.D. degree in performing arts from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore in 2005.

After attending the Lenox School of Jazz summer program in 1959, Ridley moved to New York City to pursue a career as a professional jazz musician. In the 1960s, Ridley was active in the New York jazz music scene, playing on tours and in studio recordings with a wide range of notable jazz musicians, including Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Philly Joe Jones, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Lee Morgan, and Jackie McLean. In 1971, he was hired as a professor of music at Rutgers University’s Livingston College, where he developed the college’s jazz education program, creating both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in jazz performance. From 1970 to 1973, he toured the world as the bassist for Thelonious Monk. Ridley released his own album, Sum of Parts, in 1975. From 1981 to 1985, he played as part of the tribute band Dameronia, in honor of the composer Tad Dameron. In 1985, Ridley formed his own group, the Jazz Legacy Ensemble, releasing two albums Live at Rutgers University and Other Voice. Ridley retired from Rutgers in 1999, but continued to teach at the Manhattan School of Music and Swing University at Jazz at the Lincoln Center. He chaired the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Panel. He also served as the coordinator of the Jazz Artists in Schools program, executive director of the African American Jazz Caucus and northeast regional coordinator for the International Association for Jazz Educators.

Ridley received numerous awards and accolades for his work in jazz music and education. He was inducted into the International Association for Jazz Educators Hall of Fame, the Downbeat Magazine Jazz Education Hall of Fame, and the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation Hall of Fame. He was honored by a Juneteenth 2006 Proclamation Award from the New York City Council, and was the recipient of the Meade Legacy Jazz Griot Award, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Jazz Legacy Award, the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation’s Living Legacy Jazz Award, and the Benny Golson Jazz Award from Howard University.

Larry Ridley was interviewed by The Historymakers on November 30, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.141

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/30/2016

Last Name

Ridley

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

George Washington Carver School 87

Shortridge High School

Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University

New York University

State University of New York / Empire State College

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

William D. McCoy Public School 24

First Name

Dr. Larry

Birth City, State, Country

Indianapolis

HM ID

RID01

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

To Thine Own Self Be True.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/3/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Jazz musician and music professor Larry Ridley (1937 - ) taught at Rutgers University from 1971 to 1999, and played with jazz legends such as Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk.

Employment

The Montgomery-Johnson Quintet

The Jazz Contemporaries

Slide Hampton's Octet

Horace Silver Quintet

Rutgers University

Jazz Legacy Ensemble

African American Jazz Caucus, Inc.

Duke Ellington Orchestra

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:375,7:825,15:2530,24:3041,32:3333,37:5158,62:5523,68:7564,85:7916,90:11876,160:14252,202:15044,217:15836,227:16804,242:17860,253:22065,270:22461,275:22956,281:23352,286:24045,294:24441,299:25035,306:25728,314:27807,341:28599,350:34120,395:45833,523:47991,557:48738,570:58140,708:59100,719:61212,743:61884,751:62556,762:70386,879:71052,896:72162,914:73346,941:73790,952:74086,957:74678,967:82480,1046:85600,1120:86240,1131:88160,1169:88640,1176:104714,1412:106120,1442:107822,1471:109524,1500:113579,1514:121830,1620:122467,1629:122831,1634:125604,1655:135910,1820$0,0:204,4:1360,29:1768,36:2924,57:3876,93:5032,119:8450,150:9050,159:19717,282:33171,397:37297,419:38359,446:38654,452:39303,469:43090,494:43550,501:45114,534:49070,603:49714,611:52877,636:55149,683:56143,700:56569,708:59738,739:60408,752:60810,759:66362,788:73960,873:80124,918:81582,930:99474,1084:100394,1096:113548,1273:113864,1278:114496,1287:115049,1300:115602,1308:115918,1313:131754,1475:137576,1514:147798,1581:150586,1632:152636,1666:153374,1676:158658,1738:159006,1743:161094,1785:178680,2034
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Larry Ridley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Larry Ridley lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Larry Ridley describes his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Larry Ridley talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Larry Ridley describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Larry Ridley describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Larry Ridley describes his family's residence at Lockefield Gardens in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Larry Ridley remembers his elementary school teachers

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Larry Ridley recalls his maternal family's involvement with Madame C.J. Walker

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Larry Ridley describes his early friends

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Larry Ridley recalls his initial interest in learning an instrument

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Larry Ridley remembers his first violin

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Larry Ridley recalls his early musical influences

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Larry Ridley recalls playing music with James Spaulding and Virgil Jones

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Larry Ridley remembers his early interest in jazz

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Larry Ridley talks about his father's ice business

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Larry Ridley recalls his early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Larry Ridley remember Ray Brown

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Larry Ridley remembers The Montgomery Brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Larry Ridley describes his early education

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Larry Ridley recalls his encounters with racism, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Larry Ridley recalls his encounters with racism, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Larry Ridley describes his experiences at Shortridge School in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Larry Ridley remembers forming a jazz band in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Larry Ridley recalls his early jazz influences

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Larry Ridley recalls his initial experiences at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Larry Ridley remembers his bass teacher at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Larry Ridley recalls attending a summer course at the Lenox School of Jazz

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Larry Ridley remembers playing with Max Roach in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Larry Ridley describes the roles of each instrument in a jazz band

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Larry Ridley talks about the importance of the bass line in a jazz composition

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Larry Ridley remembers his experiences at the Lenox School of Jazz in Lenox, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Larry Ridley talks about the art of performing with a jazz band

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Larry Ridley remembers performing with Max Roach

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Larry Ridley reflects upon the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Larry Ridley recalls his limited performances in the South

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Larry Ridley remembers the artists with whom he collaborated

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Larry Ridley describes his duo performances in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Larry Ridley talks about managing his professional engagements

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Larry Ridley talks about the importance of being flexible as a jazz artist

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Larry Ridley remembers completing his bachelor's degree at New York University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Larry Ridley remembers performing with Thelonious Monk

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Larry Ridley describes Thelonious Monk's musical style

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Larry Ridley talks about the differences between bandleaders' styles

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Larry Ridley recalls heading the jazz program at Livingston College in Piscataway, New Jersey

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Larry Ridley remembers performing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Larry Ridley talks about his role on the jazz panel for the National Endowment for the Arts

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Larry Ridley talks about the Jazz Artists in Schools program

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Larry Ridley recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Larry Ridley recalls earning his master's degree and training music teachers

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Larry Ridley remembers Wynton Marsalis' family

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Larry Ridley recalls his professional and educational engagements in the 2000s

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Larry Ridley talks about the importance of music education

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Larry Ridley recalls the designation of jazz as a national treasure by the U.S. Congress

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Larry Ridley reflects upon the lack of government support for jazz programs

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Larry Ridley reflects upon his life and the future of jazz education

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Larry Ridley shares his advice to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Larry Ridley talks about the prevalence of jazz music

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

10$3

DATitle
Larry Ridley describes the roles of each instrument in a jazz band
Larry Ridley describes Thelonious Monk's musical style
Transcript
And so when it comes to playing with these great drummers and other musicians in the jazz world, because much of it is improvisational--this kind of melding of talent--$$Yes.$$--which is very different from, say, the classical music that you learned in school. Can you talk about your process when you're working with different artists and creating music together?$$Well, apart from the blues, which anybody that's learning how to play knows, learns how to play the blues and you learn the twelve bar blues form. But the different compositions that are a part of what musicians use, you know. Like a song like 'Fine and Dandy,' (sings musical notes) or 'Cherokee,' (sings musical notes), you know, all of these song compositions have chord changes that are a part of it. So you know, whoever's playing the piano or the guitar in terms of chordal instruments, they're playing that. And every individual in the group has their particular role. The bass player is like the link between the harmonic instruments and the drums. So, that's what forms the rhythm section. And occasionally, there'll be a guitarist that might be a part of it, too, and that becomes the rhythm section. And we're accompanying the horn players that are on the front line, you know. And they will have songs that they're playing and there're chord sequence to all of the tunes, and you learn what the chord sequences are. And my role as the bass player is to improvise the bass line that becomes the link between the piano and the guitar as the chordal instruments, and the drums. So the bass is like in the center of making that link, which is very important. And it's important to know how to get a groove. Like Duke Ellington wrote that song, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" ['It Don't Mean A Thing'] (laughter).$You also describe one of the things that you appreciated about Thelonious [Thelonious Monk], that he was the master of understatement.$$Yes.$$Can you describe that?$$Whereas a lot of musicians--and speaking of him as a pianist--and it applies to certain other instruments, too--the idea of understatement, and his use of dissonance. And he would achieve dissonance--like when you look at a piano keyboard, you got the white keys and you got the black keys. Well, you know, like when you play like a white key and a black key at the same time, that's called a minor second intervallically, in terms of musical language, and it gives a certain kind of sound of dissonance. He could incorporate that type of thing into his playing, and it gave him his unique approach to soloing. And he would always--the way he would construct--he had his own way of rhythmic patterns in terms of the lyricism. And if you listen to some of his songs, you know, he had like one song, (sings musical notes) and so forth. That's one of his tunes, you know. But just an interesting use of rhythm and using minor seconds. Like I say, like if you got a white key and a black key right next to it, and you hit both of them simultaneously, that gives you the sound of a minor second. It's a more strident tone, and it becomes more constant the wider you go with the intervals, the intervallic relationship of one note to the next. And he had a way of utilizing that to create a very singular approach to his soloing and his use of rhythm. He would say, (sings musical notes). And it was just very flexible in terms of how he could move the rhythms around, you know. And that was a signature part of his trademark as a pianist. He wasn't trying to play more lyrically or melodically, in the sense of like Red Garland or Oscar Peterson or anybody--Bud Powell, or anything. He loved Bud Powell, though, because Bud would do some things where he would use minor seconds on the piano, too. But Bud was--in fact, he wrote a song called 'In Walked Bud.'

Gus Solomons jr

Dancer and choreographer Gus Solomons jr was born on August 27, 1938 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Olivia Stead Solomons and Gustave Solomons, Sr. He attended Cambridge High and Latin School before enrolling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956, where he studied architecture. During this time, he began studying dance as a student of Jan Veen and Robert C. Gilman at the Boston Conservatory of Music.

Upon graduation, Solomons moved to New York City to dance in Oscar Brown, Jr.’s musical Kicks and Company, with choreographer Donald McKayle. Solomons joined McKayle’s company shortly after, and began taking classes at the Martha Graham School. Solomons’ interest in postmodernism developed further at Studio 9, where he shared space with other modern dance colleagues and worked with avant-garde experimentalists, some of whom went on to form the Judson Dance Theater collective. While at Studio 9, Solomons caught the attention of Martha Graham’s student Pearl Lang, who cast him in Shira in 1962. In 1965, postmodern choreographer Merce Cunningham asked Solomons to join his company. There, Solomons created roles in How to Pass Kick Fall and Run, RainForest, Place, Walkaround Time, and partnered with Sandra Neels in Scramble. In 1968, Solomons left Cunningham’s company after sustaining a back injury. He then collaborated with writer Mary Feldhaus-Weber and composer John Morris on a dual-screen video-dance piece entitled CITY/MOTION/SPACE/GAME at WGBH-TV in Boston, produced by Rick Hauser. Solomons went on to found his own company, The Solomons Company/Dance, creating over 165 original pieces. He became known for his analytical approach and incorporation of architectural concepts as well as his exploration of interactive video, sound, and movement, as depicted in the piece CON/Text. In 1980, Solomons began writing dance reviews, which were published in The Village Voice, Attitude, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. In 1996, he founded PARADIGM with Carmen de Lavallade and Dudley Williams. Solomons also worked as an arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts until 2013.

In 2004, Solomons was named the American Dance Festival’s Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching. He received the first annual Robert A. Muh Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and served as a Phi Beta Kappa Scholar in 2006.

Gus Solomons jr was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 7, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.054

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/7/2016

Last Name

Solomons

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

Kennedy-Longfellow School

Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School

First Name

Gus

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

SOL02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Wherever I Have Work

Favorite Quote

Dance Like No One's Watching.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/27/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Dancer and choreographer Gus Solomons jr. (1938 - ) created over 165 dance pieces for his two companies, The Solomons Company/Dance and PARADIGM. He was known for his analytical approach, architectural concepts, and use of video and other forms of media.

Employment

Donald McKayle and Company

The Joffrey School

Barbara Dona and Associates

Studio 9

Jacob's Pillow

Barbara Dorn Associates

Dance Circle

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Martha Graham Dance Company

Solomons Company Dance

Glimmerglass Playhouse and the Canadian Opera

PARADIGM Dance Company

Complexions

Favorite Color

Orange, Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:704,13:1496,24:1848,29:2288,35:3344,48:4312,71:5808,107:6864,126:19964,171:20354,177:21602,197:24242,224:32980,307:35418,333:37928,354:39134,384:39469,390:41211,421:42484,470:48940,551:50965,669:51340,675:62685,931:68114,1023:79654,1167:80474,1180:88839,1346:92832,1390:103795,1537:104619,1547:108376,1574:114750,1645:115185,1651:116577,1677:117795,1694:118404,1703:121888,1731:122785,1757:123268,1765:123958,1777:124234,1782:126925,1858:127339,1865:127753,1872:145318,2082:145780,2089:146319,2103:146781,2111:147782,2128:148090,2133:157270,2242:164354,2307:164975,2315:166760,2341:168590,2351:168974,2356:169646,2366:170030,2371:170702,2387:172142,2412:172910,2432:174770,2438:176062,2464:176402,2470:176810,2477:177082,2482:178442,2518:184474,2592:185956,2620:186736,2635:192508,2772:192898,2778:197570,2802:199219,2824:203390,2917:203778,2922:204360,2929:214808,3024:221008,3128:222412,3161:224284,3189:224908,3198:231852,3274:235480,3318:236558,3335:236866,3340:237482,3350:238637,3385:240947,3424:246464,3473:247928,3507:262058,3647:263085,3665:267272,3735:270350,3763$0,0:1764,31:3192,59:3948,70:47530,524:48055,530:63769,633:65188,645:69522,676:75350,710:76250,722:77240,736:77690,742:79490,764:80120,773:82190,819:82640,825:86330,878:88490,912:94080,936:95676,963:97680,971:98110,977:98454,982:101760,1002:107741,1058:108359,1065:109389,1081:114200,1162:115608,1196:116056,1204:135138,1338:136514,1353:136858,1358:137632,1370:138922,1393:139524,1401:148500,1536:148980,1543:151330,1586:152067,1605:152871,1619:166566,1737:170878,1810:174398,1864:175102,1874:175718,1883:176422,1893:182018,1932:185090,2037
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gus Solomons jr's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr remembers his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr describes his neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the lack of racial diversity in his neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gus Solomons jr describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gus Solomons jr recalls his early exposure to music and performance

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Gus Solomons jr remembers the start of his career in performance

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gus Solomons jr describes his early academic success

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his attitude towards racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr recalls his decision to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr remembers studying dance at the Boston Conservatory of Music

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr describes the start of his dance career in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr describes his position at Barbara Dorn and Associates

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr remembers performing in 'Kicks and Company'

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr recalls joining the companies of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the techniques of Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr remembers performing with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr describes the formation of Solomons Company Dance

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr describes his creative process for choreography

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the theories of choreographic composition

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr recalls the funding for Solomons Company Dance

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr remembers the dancers in Solomons Company Dance

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr describes the rehearsal space for Solomons Company Dance

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gus Solomons jr remembers touring with the National Endowment for the Arts

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Gus Solomons jr describes 'City Motion Space Game,' pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gus Solomons jr describes 'City Motion Space Game,' pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the dance installations 'Red Squalls' and 'Red Squalls II'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his work as a dance critic

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his committee service

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his experiences of clinical depression, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the Paradigm Dance Company

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the loss of his family

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr describes the live video dance 'CON/Text'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his collaborations with Jason Akira Somma

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his depression's influence upon his work

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr describes the Paradigm Dance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his experiences of dancing at an older age

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr describes his involvement with the It Gets Better Project

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his involvement in the piece 'Monument 0.1'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr shares his advice to aspiring dancers

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr reflects upon the state of diversity in dance

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gus Solomons jr reflects upon his life

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
Gus Solomons jr remembers studying dance at the Boston Conservatory of Music
Gus Solomons jr talks about the dance installations 'Red Squalls' and 'Red Squalls II'
Transcript
When did you perform in your first professional show?$$(Makes sound) I guess, I would say the Dancemakers. That was a company that I joined in 1958 maybe. It was Boston's first professional modern dance company. And, it was started by Martha Baird who lived out in Newton [Massachusetts] or somewhere. And, there was no modern dance company so that was, that was what I would call my first professional performing.$$And, when you were taking dance classes leading up to that, did you take traditional ballet and all of the--?$$Yes, when I went to the Boston Conservatory [Boston Conservatory of Music; Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Boston, Massachusetts]. See, in my first year at Tech [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts], I went out to audition for the show, the original musical. And, they said, "Wow, you can dance. Can you choreograph?" And, I said, "Oh, you mean make up dances? Yeah, I can do that." So, I was the lead in the show and choreographed it.$$What show is this now?$$It was called MI- the 'Tech Show.' It was an original--and the first one was called "Djinn and Bitters" [Harold Lawler]. And, I played the genie. But, when I--they said, "Can you choreograph?" I thought, well, maybe I should go and see what that's about. So, I went across the river [Charles River] to the Boston Conservatory and enrolled in a modern dance class, which was taught by Jan Veen, who was a German Viennese who had studied with Laban [Rudolf von Laban] and he taught us the Laban scales. Now, in the, in his system of teaching, making dance and technique and improvisation were all one. There were no categories, no sharp divisions. So, that was a wonderful way to learn to dance. And, then, they kept offering me more and more classes because men were scarce in dance in Boston [Massachusetts] at that time. And, then I started taking ballet classes with Rue Santon [ph.], and--Cecchetti technique, and jazz with Bob Gilman [Robert C. Gilman]. That was kind of Broadway jazz.$$And, this was all at the conservatory?$$Correct.$$So, you were taking, the entire time that you were in college you were also taking dance classes--$$Yes.$$--across the water?$$Yeah, (makes sound). Yes. Yes. As a matter of fact at one point in my senior year, or my, yeah, either the fourth or fifth year, I went up for jury with our projects. That week, the last week before the project, I had slept six hours in total that week, because I would sleep two hours before each performance. I was performing in an opera in Boston, 'Traviata' ['La Traviata,' Giuseppe Verdi] I think. And, when I got up to present my work one of my professors said, "Gus [HistoryMaker Gus Solomons jr], would you tell us how you managed to do a full time architecture course at MIT and still have time to be dancing professionally in the opera?" I thought, oops, busted (laughter).$$Right, right, right.$$But, yeah, I mean, 'cause when you're that age you don't need sleep. You just need more pasta and coffee. But, that--$$So, you knew, that you were gonna be a dancer?$$I did (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Some- in one way or another.$$I knew I wanted to do some kind of performing. And, I remember actually going to one of my professors, Richard Phillapolski [ph.], and saying, "You know, I really, I'm not sure I wanna finish that extra sixth year because I really wanna be a dancer." And, he said, "Oh, no, you will be a credit to your race if you become an architect." He--those were his words (laughter). And, I thought, okay, whatever. And, then when I graduated, I graduated in May--oh, and they gave me an award at MIT, a (unclear) or something, in recognition of my service as a performer in the 'Tech' shows, because I did 'Tech Show' every year when I was there.$Moving forward in time, what's another highlight?$$Another highlight, let's see. There were, I think the collaborations stand out for me with Toby Twining doing the music and Scott De Vere doing the installation in that company, especially--and, that was starting in '88 [1988] 'til '93 [1993] and culminating in a big site specific piece ['Red Squalls,' Gus Solomons jr] at Lincoln Center [Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, New York] in '93 [1993] on the North Plaza where the pool is. And, we took up that whole space with six dancers and twelve (pause) dancers, prop movers, chorus. An installation was a 150 foot long fabric wall that had, you know, posts each twelve feet. And, that could isolate the dancers or it could have its own dancers, become a solid if you zigzagged it from a cube. Or, it could become a streamer or it could be, if you twisted the opposite, via every other post it became a, like a bowtie arrangement. And, then the dancers would move around the plaza in relationship to this wall. That was the first time. The second time, we did it again in 1997 ['Red Squalls II,' Gus Solomons jr]. And, that time I collaborated with Walter Thompson whom I begun working with who did instrumental music. But, with a kind of a language that he had devised of directing improvisation by musicians. And, the musicians then were part of the spectacle because they marched around and they moved and they were in separate locations and so forth and he could conduct them all. And, this time also, there was a fabric designer [Stephanie Siepmann] who made the costumes. And, the costumes were three dimensional fabrics that she had invented essentially. So, the dancers were in these wonderful constructions in addition to moving.$$So, when you did these pieces on the plaza, did you also film them?$$Yes. Not, very comprehensively. But, there are bits and pieces of film that exist in the New York Public Library performing arts collection [New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York, New York].

Judith Jamison

Dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison was born on May 10, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Tessie Brown Jamison and John Jamison, Sr. While encouraged by her parents to study the piano and violin, Jamison gravitated towards ballet. At the age of six, Jamison began taking lessons at the Judimar School of Dance in Philadelphia. She went on to study the techniques of African American dance pioneer Katherine Dunham. Jamison graduated from Germantown High School in Philadelphia, and enrolled at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. However, she left Fisk to study dance and kinesiology at the Philadelphia Dance Academy, now part of New York City’s University of the Arts.

In 1964, Jamison earned critical acclaim for her work with choreographer Agnes de Mille and the American Ballet Theatre in New York. A year later, Alvin Ailey invited Jamison to join the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where she was featured in numerous productions, toured with the company to Africa and Europe and earned international acclaim for her signature performance of Cry, a fifteen minute solo piece written by Ailey for Jamison. Jamison went on to appear as a guest performer with the San Francisco Ballet, the Swedish Royal Ballet, the Cullberg Ballet, and the Vienna State Ballet. In 1980, Jamison performed on Broadway in Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies with Gregory Hines. That same year, Jamison began her own work as a choreographer. She premiered her first ballet, Divining, with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1984. In 1988, Jamison founded The Jamison Project Dance Company.

Jamison returned to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1989, assuming the role of artistic director following the death of founder Alvin Ailey. In 1993, Jamison choreographed Hymn, a tribute to Ailey, and published her autobiography, Dancing Spirit. Under her leadership, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater joined forces with Fordham University to establish a joint bachelor of fine arts program with a multicultural dance curriculum. Jamison also spearheaded the construction of the company’s first permanent home, the Joan Weill Center for Dance. Although Jamison stepped down as artistic director in 2011, she remained associated with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as artistic director emerita.

Judith Jamison was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.014

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/30/2016

Last Name

Jamison

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Occupation
Schools

Charles W. Henry School

Germantown High School

Fisk University

University of the Arts

First Name

Judith

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

JAM07

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Toubab Dialao, Senegal

Favorite Quote

Pray, Prepare And Proceed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/10/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salad

Short Description

Dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison (1943 - ) gained international acclaim as a dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, before taking over as the company's artistic director in 1989 following the death of founder Alvin Ailey.

Employment

American Ballet Theatre

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Harkness Ballet

Jacob's Pillow

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:2548,42:3276,52:4095,78:4914,90:11675,194:12500,255:20075,438:20450,444:20825,454:26340,487:26750,493:27324,502:27734,508:31014,582:31670,592:32654,668:38650,738:39070,747:39430,754:39730,760:39970,765:40390,773:42780,795:43155,801:43830,811:46090,826:46410,831:46730,836:47610,853:48650,869:52400,888:53115,900:53765,913:54025,918:54350,924:54935,934:55455,946:62713,1073:66426,1144:66979,1152:70415,1163:84629,1352:92243,1524:92648,1530:93053,1540:93620,1548:94997,1574:101136,1631:101760,1640:104100,1670:104933,1680:105647,1692:106718,1707:107551,1720:108622,1736:113977,1809:114572,1815:115524,1824:120305,1836:121805,1868:122330,1877:123230,1899:123530,1904:126878,1959:127366,1964:129597,1975:130033,1980:132213,2013:132649,2018:133957,2039:141716,2119:147198,2167:149214,2276:151650,2315:152322,2324:157198,2380:157891,2394:158199,2399:160201,2431:162511,2567:166284,2621:172030,2674:172918,2688:173658,2700:173954,2705:175804,2750:176396,2759:176692,2764:177580,2779:179948,2837:181650,2869:182168,2877:185200,2884:185914,2892:186628,2900:193912,3014:194304,3022:199425,3072:199930,3078:203160,3101:204096,3123:204456,3129:205752,3151:206400,3157:212448,3317:212808,3323:213384,3332:213744,3338:216480,3394:216840,3417:227342,3554:229118,3605:229636,3614:230006,3624:230598,3637:231042,3644:232226,3664:234224,3762:237998,3812:239330,3836:240144,3858:241328,3878:252604,3976:255170,4015$0,0:1280,12:1868,21:5984,158:8168,215:8672,223:10436,293:14552,341:15056,348:16232,365:21740,395:27775,493:28540,504:29220,513:35090,569:35890,581:38770,729:40450,795:42530,844:43330,860:44370,891:44770,897:46050,923:47570,951:50290,1014:50850,1022:51650,1036:52930,1062:54210,1091:55410,1112:56610,1143:57010,1149:64587,1181:66633,1214:67098,1220:67842,1230:73143,1335:74445,1357:77390,1372:78340,1400:80335,1433:83755,1499:84895,1516:93635,1691:98161,1716:104997,1858:105423,1866:105920,1875:106275,1881:106559,1886:110535,2004:110819,2009:117150,2084:119672,2138:132650,2537:141330,2703:142050,2720:142370,2725:143890,2754:145010,2778:145410,2784:145890,2791:159065,2932:161340,3160:161704,3165:162159,3171:165799,3240:174841,3376:175846,3435:187270,3573:187830,3581:191430,3639:192150,3652:193990,3693:194390,3699:194870,3707:198038,3718:198775,3731:201321,3800:206550,3825:206970,3832:209000,3884:209420,3891:210190,3909:210540,3915:211660,3939:217120,4073:218240,4096:218940,4109:229110,4264:236064,4343:236562,4351:236894,4356:237475,4364:243783,4546:245941,4585:246273,4590:246854,4623:247186,4637:247850,4643:248182,4648:249261,4682:262942,4802:263690,4821:264166,4830:264574,4837:269564,4933:270248,4956:272452,5016:283080,5240:284862,5260:286401,5284:287049,5293:287616,5303:291313,5377:294391,5414:296335,5430:297631,5523:303758,5567:307040,5615
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Judith Jamison's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Judith Jamison lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Judith Jamison describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Judith Jamison describes her religious upbringing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Judith Jamison describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Judith Jamison recalls her family's support during her early years in dance

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Judith Jamison describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Judith Jamison describes her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Judith Jamison describes her early dance training with Marion Cuyjet

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Judith Jamison remembers her childhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Judith Jamison describes her schools in Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Judith Jamison remembers her decision to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Judith Jamison describes her experiences at Fisk University

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Judith Jamison recalls her introduction to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Judith Jamison describes the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater style

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Judith Jamison recalls auditioning for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Judith Jamison reflects upon her dance training

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

9$7

DATitle
Judith Jamison describes her early dance training with Marion Cuyjet
Judith Jamison recalls auditioning for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Transcript
So, but Marion Cuyjet, what, can you talk about her role?$$Yeah.$$Because she also was an interesting person (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, Marion, Marion, oh my goodness; Ms. Marion, we called her--$$Ms. Marion.$$--Ms. Marion, we never called her Marion. I didn't even call her Marion when she came to see me dance and I was an adult. I was like, "Hi Ms. Marion," and became this little kid again, you know. She was an amazing black woman who looked white. She had red hair, white skin and green eyes and she was as black as you and me and she was proud of that and she started a school [Judimar School of Dance, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] for the little black kids who study ballet because you couldn't study back then. To this day people still have trouble getting in schools to study classical ballet; so she made that possible, I mean that's her, she made, she opened a world to us that was not just about classical ballet, but about [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham 'cause she was studying--she was teaching Dunham's technique, tap. I'm so glad I had tap because I ended up on Broadway starring in 'Sophisticated Ladies' with Gregory Hines, the greatest, oh my goodness, what a dancer he was and there I was on the stage with him. Thank God I had--Ann Bernardino [Veda Ann Bernardino] was my tap teacher back then. We had the, in--I said Dunham classes, we had acrobatics, that's when I found out there was no way I was going to be a gymnast, no way, this back does not do what gymnasts' backs do, didn't enjoy that, but learned something, had to try it, right. So she gave us the--and she gave tea dances. On Saturday afternoons and she would have guys, the guys in the school and the girls in the school and we'd have gloves on and little skirts and it would be tea on the side and she would actually have dances where you know, you had to stay that far apart and the guy was like this (gesture) and you danced you know, it was, it was very formal and very enriching, I mean you learned so much about how, how to be social even though I wasn't, but you learned how to be, you know, and to engage other people in conversation other than dance. This was one thing I loved about Alvin [Alvin Ailey], Mr. Ailey, he taught us how to do, how to, how to live outside of the box of dance and engage everyone because everyone's your audience.$$Well I was surprised also with how many people she, you know, what, how much you were exposed to--$$Oh yeah.$$--from a dance perspective, through, through, through Ms. Marion (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right. And she was, and she also farmed me out so-to- speak, farmed me out. Was--and she--I don't know if everybody was getting the same attention I was getting and I'm not, I can't remember that everyone got a chance to study with Antony Tudor when you, they were ten years old, you know, or that--I started taking private lessons with a, oh, what was his name, Yuri Gottschalk, he was a marvelous--I think he was a Latvian, please be Latvian. When I, when I was a kid, I was ten, eleven, twelve and I would take class at his home holding on--there's a thing called the barre; you start class with the barre, you're at the barre, you hold on to the barre and you do--I use to hold on to his stove and he use to put oil on the floor and if anybody knows anything about maintaining these positions that we have in, in ballet, first position, second position, it's based on rotation of the hips, so you were turned out, very unnatural way to stand, but you rotated and turned out, your, your feet are turned out this way (gesture) and in order to hold that properly you really have to use muscles that you don't think you have, you've got to find them and if somebody puts oil under, you better find those muscles otherwise your feet just slide back and, so here I was learning these little tricks of the trade that really would help me later on because Marion passed me on as I was studying her to all these different teachers, excellent teachers.$So you, you tell the story of how you were at the audition and you know he [Alvin Ailey] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, it was a disaster.$$--sees you, what does he see, that's what I'm saying--he called--$$I have no idea.$$You've never, you've (unclear)--$$I did not. I was terrible at that audition. All I know is I've always had an upward trajectory in my head that I had God's ear and that I was just going this way (gesture) up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up; okay, so in that can you imagine my emotions after not having danced for three months; because I was working the World's Fair [1964 New York World's Fair, New York, New York], you know (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) (Unclear)--$$--from '64 [1964], '65 [1965] after Ballet Theatre [American Ballet Theatre]. There're no black people in Ballet Theatre, hello, now, what do we have, one, two, three something, but you know, every step, what can I say, but there was no gigs, so I was there at the log flume ride Texas Pavilion, that's when Martha Johnson comes in, the pianist I was telling you about at Ballet Theatre, she tells me to go to an audition. I haven't danced for three months. I'm at an audition with people who have been dancing for their lives and back then in 1965, black women were wearing wigs like crazy, lashes like this (gesture), heels, stiletto heels. You went to an audition for a television show. You didn't show up in pink ballet shoes and tights, which is what I did and, and then I couldn't learn a step because it was a wonderful woman named Paula Kelly, who was an extraordinary dancer, who was demonstrating Mr. McKayle's, [HistoryMaker] Donald McKayle's steps and I had never seen steps like that before and I was so stunned by the steps and by her executing them and I was like (gesture), I couldn't learn a thing. I was too stunned. I was just (gesture) so that he calls me three days later after I failed this audition miserably and I didn't even see him at the audition. I didn't know he was there. I just passed by somebody that was sitting on the steps. I didn't know it was him because I was like this (gesture). I was totally in a state of shock, calling my mother [Tessie Brown Jamison] on the phone saying, "I don't know what I'm going to do, but I want to stay in New York [New York], but I don't know, you know," I'm boohooing. And that's the three days later then he calls me and said, "Would you like--this is Alvin Ailey, would you like to join my company [Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater]?" And of course I go, "Yeah, fabulous," and I'm excited and all that, but it's like a blur. It's like a blur. I didn't, I didn't go like, "What did he see in me that he would--?" I didn't then, that, and then I walk into the, the, rehearsal, my first rehearsal and all those people that I saw on stage, not all of them, but some of them are in that, and the first partner I had is the person that I--you know, I mean that, that, you just kind of--and you walk in, I walked in like, like this (gesture), you know like, "Oh, Mr. Truitte [James Truitte]." And then he says, "Girl get over there and learn those steps," you know, I mean--it was just shut down right away, that come on, this is terra firma, you've got a gig now. We're going out in, in four weeks, in three weeks, you got two weeks, you've got to learn eight ballets, go learn them, boom, boom. I went to work right away, there was no like awe and you know, like, like people on pedestals or anything like that, you had your chance when you saw him on stage, then you put him on a pedestal, now you're working with him, guess what, no time for that other stuff. So it wasn't until much later that I figured he saw--and he would tell me that I was probably the most musical dancer he had ever had. I was totally musical, innately musical, that there were things that, how did he call it, revatto [ph.]. There were things that I understood about continuing movement and stopping movement and just a, in, just a natural talent, not a technique talent, you, you've got to learn technique. A lot of people, black people, get into that all the time where it takes no thought, you can dance, you've always been able to dance, not like that, I had to go to school to learn how to do this, period, you know. But yes, he saw that musicality in me and he would, he would--that's why when we were working together that he didn't have to turn around and tell me a whole bunch of stuff. He didn't have to explain a lot of things to me. He would do the movement and I would do the movement copying him and there's no way I could look like him doing the movement, but what, when he would turn around he would be pleased.$$With what he saw--$$Yeah, most of the time (laughter), most of the time. So, yeah, that, he, he, he saw something--I always, when I see dancers that are really special to me it's like they're, they're not from this planet. They are from someplace else you know, they've, they've just arrived, they're here for a little bit then they go on back to where they, where they came from in the first place. They, they're creatures. They're creatures. They, they're human when they step off the stage and do whatever they're doing there, but they are, they are creatures that have, that are full of, of this loving humanity that they only want to share with you for that two and a half hours on stage, isn't that a wonderful thing you know, and when that, when that hits you know it, the audience knows it, you know it and you go away with an experience that you'll never forget. That's what I saw when I saw the company the first time, you know.

Thelma Golden

Museum director and curator Thelma Golden was born on September 22, 1965 in Queens, New York. In 1983, she graduated from the New Lincoln School, where she trained as a curatorial apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in her senior year. In 1987, she earned her B.A. degree in art history and African American studies from Smith College.

Golden worked first as a curatorial intern at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1987, then as a curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. From 1989 to 1991, she worked as the visual arts director for the Jamaica Arts Center in Queens, New York, where she curated eight shows. Golden was then appointed branch director of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Philip Morris branch in 1991 and curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1996. While at the Whitney, she organized numerous groundbreaking exhibitions, including the 1993 Whitney Biennial and 1994’s Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art. She also organized Bob Thompson: A Retrospective (1998), Heart, Mind, Body, Soul: New Work from the Collection (1998), and Hindsight: Recent Work from the Permanent Collection (1999). Golden also presented projects by artists Alison Saar, Glenn Ligon, Gary Simmons, Romare Bearden, Matthew McCaslin, Suzanne McClelland, Lorna Simpson, Jacob Lawrence, and Leone & MacDonald. She also worked as the special projects curator for contemporary art collectors Peter Norton and Eileen Harris Norton from 1998 to 2000. Golden returned to the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2000, where she was named deputy director for exhibitions and programs, and director and chief curator in 2005. Golden organized numerous exhibitions at the Studio Museum, including Isaac Julien: Vagabondia (2000); Martin Puryear: The Cane Project (2000); Glenn Ligon: Stranger (2001); Freestyle (2001); Black Romantic: The Figurative Impulse in Contemporary Art (2002); harlemworld: Metropolis as Metaphor (2004); Chris Ofili: Afro Muses (2005); Frequency (2005–2006); Africa Comics (2006–2007); and Kori Newkirk: 1997–2007 (2007–2008). Golden also lectured at several institutions, including Columbia University, Yale University, and the Royal College of Art in London. In addition, she contributed essays about Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Bill T. Jones, Kara Walker, and Glenn Ligon to various publications.

Golden received honorary degrees from Moore College of Art and Design, Smith College, and the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2008, she was a member of the advisory team of the Whitney Biennial; and in 2007, a juror for the UK Turner Prize. Golden served on the graduate committee for Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies, and on the boards of Creative Time in New York and the Institute of International Visual Arts in London. In 2016, she was awarded the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence.

Golden is married to London fashion designer Duro Olowu.

Thelma Golden was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 9, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.006

Sex

Female

Interview Date

08/09/2016

Last Name

Golden

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Ann

Schools

Buckley Country Day School

New Lincoln School

Smith College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Thelma

Birth City, State, Country

St. Albans, Queens

HM ID

GOL04

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Fantastic

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/22/1965

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Mangoes

Short Description

Museum director and curator Thelma Golden (1965 - ) became the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2005, having served as a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the 1990s.

Employment

Studio Museum in Harlem

Whitney Museum of American Art - Phillip Morris Branch

Peter Norton and Eileen Harris Norton

Jamaica Arts Center

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:2070,102:3381,127:3795,135:4071,140:4485,148:4830,154:6141,181:8211,234:14214,341:14697,350:20110,399:20880,411:21650,427:22350,439:23960,466:24310,473:28860,599:34220,645:36780,751:42620,831:43420,842:48780,965:49340,973:49980,983:54285,1006:66759,1227:68640,1253:69333,1261:71511,1329:83043,1449:86030,1464:89399,1516:92781,1580:96786,1641:97854,1656:98299,1663:99456,1680:103820,1703:104292,1708:108182,1754:110054,1792:121810,1979:122755,1990:130136,2095:130676,2101:133160,2152:133592,2166:137588,2226:138992,2242:146772,2311:148934,2343:149404,2350:151942,2381:153634,2494:161600,2565:165500,2598:177168,2768:190032,2935:194427,2958:195217,2973:197034,3026:198693,3086:199088,3092:199720,3101:200510,3118:201063,3126:205470,3182:206352,3502:231789,3851:252376,4066:252756,4072:253212,4080:257164,4183:266990,4333:267878,4351:268248,4357:268766,4369:274390,4523:279937,4621:280423,4628:289062,4744:294120,4809:299514,4933:302583,4996:307731,5031:308193,5039:308963,5057:313506,5149:314199,5159:314584,5165:320359,5318:325845,5380:326426,5388:326758,5393:328003,5419:329331,5447:331157,5493:333560,5518$0,0:792,18:1287,24:1980,34:3168,49:4356,70:11442,155:12108,186:12848,196:18324,336:22468,407:23134,417:23430,422:25058,455:32259,482:34030,494:34953,515:37716,538:39212,559:41500,608:43436,635:44756,662:51862,735:59536,840:62317,933:65716,1017:68497,1046:77250,1175:77634,1180:78306,1189:78690,1194:82146,1269:82722,1276:87515,1308:88677,1324:89756,1353:90669,1366:94819,1507:96147,1526:96479,1531:97807,1557:98305,1565:98637,1570:98969,1575:99301,1580:100463,1597:107110,1637:107770,1645:108430,1652:110694,1664:116516,1784:120616,1848:120944,1853:124716,1941:130035,2015:131910,2049:132285,2055:132735,2076:133485,2087:137490,2143
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Thelma Golden's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden describes her father's family background, pt. 3

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden talks about her father's parenting style

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden recalls how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Thelma Golden describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden describes her mother as a young adult

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden talks about the closeness of her mother's immediate family

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden describes her neighborhood in St. Albans in Queens, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden recalls the way in which she and her brother were raised

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden describes her mother's parenting style

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden remembers the relationship between her mother and paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden describes her childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Thelma Golden talks about the black Presbyterian Church

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden talks about her parents' social and political ideologies

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden describes her experiences at Buckley Country Day School in Roslyn, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden describes the Buckley Country Day School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden talks about her favorite subjects

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden describes the films 'Mahogany' and 'The Wiz'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden recalls her early interest in art history

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden describes the New Lincoln School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden talks about her exposure to the art world in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Thelma Golden describes her experiences at the New Lincoln School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden describes her decision to attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden remembers her professor, Walter Morris-Hale, at Smith College

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden recalls her internship at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden describes her relationship with James Baldwin

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden talks about James Baldwin's influence in her life

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden recalls her summer retail jobs

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden describes her curatorial fellowship at the Studio Museum in Harlem, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden describes her curatorial fellowship at the Studio Museum in Harlem, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden remembers Harlem, New York in the 1980s and 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden recalls her interview at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden describes her role at the Whitney Museum of American Art, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden describes her role at the Whitney Museum of American Art, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden talks about the role of curators

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden recalls working with Kellie Jones at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden describes the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden remembers the artists exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden describes her relationship with Raymond J. McGuire

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden recalls working at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden recalls her role as associate curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden describes the retrospective exhibition of Bob Thompson's work

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden remembers the work of Lowery Stokes Sims

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden describes the ideas and influences of 'Black Male'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden remembers the public response to her exhibition, 'Black Male'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden recalls her parents' reactions to 'Black Male,' pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden recalls her parents' reactions to 'Black Male,' pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden remembers her colleagues' support of 'Black Male'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden remembers the media's critique to 'Black Male'

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden talks about the importance of the 'Black Male' exhibition

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden remembers her work at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden recalls working with Lowery Stokes Sims at the Studio Museum in Harlem, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden recalls working with Lowery Stokes Sims at the Studio Museum in Harlem, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden remembers the board members at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden talks about Lowery Stokes Sims' leadership at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden describes the 'Freestyle' exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden recalls meeting artist Mark Bradford

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden remembers her relationship with artist Glenn Ligon

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden describes her relationship with artist Lorna Simpson

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden talks about her working relationship with artists

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden describes the exhibitions and programs at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden talks about the space of the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden recalls her transition to director of the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden describes her role as director of the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden remembers her art mentors, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden remembers her art mentors, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden describes her fundraising responsibilities

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden talks about presence of the Studio Museum in Harlem in the community

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden reflects upon her accomplishments at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden talks about the proposed expansion to the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden talks about her goals for the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden describes the post-black art movement, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden describes the post-black art movement, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden reflects upon the art world during the 2016 Presidential Election

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden describes how she met her husband, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Thelma Golden describes how she met her husband, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden talks about her long-distance marriage, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden talks about her long-distance marriage, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden describes her husband's cultural background

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden talks about her fellowship at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden describes her work with the Obama Administration, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden describes her work with the Obama Administration, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden remembers attending President Barack Obama's state dinner

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Thelma Golden describes Peggy Cooper Cafritz

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Thelma Golden talks about her relationships with women in the art world

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden talks about her maternal figures

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Thelma Golden reflects upon the work of Maya Angelou

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Thelma Golden shares her goals for the future

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Thelma Golden describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Thelma Golden reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Thelma Golden narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Thelma Golden narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Thelma Golden narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$10

DAStory

1$7

DATitle
Thelma Golden describes her decision to attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts
Thelma Golden reflects upon the art world during the 2016 Presidential Election
Transcript
--How did you end up choosing Smith [Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts]?$$I ended up at Smith because of Verne Oliver. When it came time to think about colleges, as head of school, we had a guidance counsellor, but as head of school, she also worked with the senior class, right, to ensure that every student was looking at the best range of possibilities for them. And I remember I did not necessarily have a distinct interest in women's colleges per se; I knew I wanted to go to a small school and it felt like the counsellor gave me the whole realm of some of the best small liberal arts schools on the East Coast, and so my sense of myself was, well, great; I'll apply to all of these schools. But I imagined that I would end up in a coed school, small coed liberal arts school. I knew I already wanted to major in art history, I knew I wanted to work in a museum, but I also saw college as something else besides just getting on my career track. I was excited about the possibility of leaving home and of meeting new friends, and so I just thought that college experience would be like the experience that I'd seen on TV. And Verne, in a way, Verne was very direct and stern about things. She said to me, "You are going to apply to several women's colleges." And I said, "Why?" And she says, "Because that's how the world is, and I want you to go to a women's," (background noise) sorry. I'll start that over. I, Verne was very adamant that I look at women's colleges and, you know, Verne Oliver was an educator who believed also in education; like she believed that education is what made us who we are, and believed deeply in college as not just a conveyor belt to career, but to, again, this ability to deeply dive into an academic study that one could have with them, right, their whole life, no matter what they did. And so Verne was the one who said, "You are gonna apply to women's colleges." And I remember Verne giving me the most sophisticated analysis of gender and race politics in America as she saw it, and end of that lecture ended up that she felt a woman's college would give me things that I would not get anywhere else, that she felt would be critical to my ability to actualize a life full of possibility and opportunity. And I believed her in a way, and so applied; in the end decided not to go to Smith, and sent a deposit to a coed liberal arts school that I won't name, that I went to visit, and when I was visiting this coed liberal arts, very good school that had a, a student body all proud to go there, I met a young man at that school who, so proud of his school and so, did, believed deeply, right, in its pull, said to me, "Oh, my girlfriend goes to Smith; you should meet her." And so in the weekend, it was that discovery weekend that, where after you decide where you're going you go up there, I met this young woman, and she was amazing. I mean I had never met a woman my age who had as much determination, as much focus, as much poise, I mean the first thing when I saw her, I thought, my mother [Thelma Eastmond Golden] would love her. While everyone else was at this college party, kind of, you know, in whatever they were in, she commanded space in the room, and she very calmly kind of said to me, "You know, it's great you're here; this is a great school, but did you apply to Smith?" And I said, "Yes, and I got in." I said, "But you know, I just don't know, a single sex school; I, you know, maybe I should go to a coed school." And she says, "I think you're wrong." And she gave me her phone number; she said, "Call me, let's talk," you know, "when you get home." Well, by the time I get home, and this is how the world is, it turned out her father was a very well known elected official in New York State who, when she said, "You know, I met this young woman, this is her name." He said, "Oh, that must be," again, "Artie Golden's [Arthur Golden, Sr.] daughter." And he called my dad, and she and I had spoken, and at that point my parents called Smith and said, "Listen," you know, "she made this decision, she'd like to perhaps change her decision." It was still within the timing, so I wasn't out of time, but it was more that it felt like we were done. And Smith, of course, said, "Of course you can come." And the only thing that happened is we lost the deposit for the first school. And years later, that school invited me to do a lecture and they paid me a very generous honorarium, and I was so proud of that and I told my father, and about a week later he said, "Okay, you know whose money that is." He goes, "That's my deposit with interest," you know, twenty years later (laughter). But, I then knew, I knew Smith was right. I knew it was right; I knew when I visited, but I just had a little bit of anxiety about what I imagined I wanted. It's the thing I tell now young women who are looking at Smith, that that anxiety, in the course of one's life, is so small compared to all you gain in these four years in an environment that is truly invested in you. And what it means to be in an environment with all these young women, your peers, who have an equal sense of themself was inspiring every single day. That's how it felt to be at Smith, it was inspiring every day. So that's how I got to Smith. Verne was thrilled. I mean this was sort of her choice, and I'd applied to several other women's colleges. My parents were thrilled because it was a decision they thought I was happy with, and I went off to Smith and spent four amazing years there.$What do you think about your, the concept in the days, 'cause I think really, a lot of us are fearful of the times, well, I don't know, amazed and sort of fearful of what hap- you know, what, you know, between, I'm talking about, I don't even wanna talk about him, but between Trump [President Donald John Trump] and, you know, what is sort of--$$Yeah.$$--fermenting in society right now, and, and so I was wondering what your thoughts are, or do you see beyond that.$$Well, I have always felt that I see the world through art; I see the world through art in amazing moments in the world, but I also see the world through art in hard, complicated moments. So I, right now, am deeply engaged in the work that's being made, for example, photographically, by young photographers and photojournalists who are on the front lines of the protests going on all over this country, right, in the face of all the violence that's happening, the racial violence and the violence that's happening because of the racial violence. I understand what I understand about some of that through their eyes, and through the way in which they are documenting and then capturing it, some of them not even with the idea that it's art with a big A, but it is art to me, and I'm intrigued. I know that's what will be the record of what people who will know about this moment, this complicated, awful moment, will know about it a hundred years from now; it's gonna come, right, in that work. And as a curator, I actually have the added responsibility, in some cases, of collecting that work to make sure that somebody has the opportunity to see it. So, right now, I look at what's going on by looking at the ways in which artists are responding. It always isn't direct, however. Do you know what I, like it isn't always direct; there aren't always direct manifestations in the very moment by artists; that, that's not what I mean to say, what I mean to say, however, is that art reacts to the world it's in; art reacts to the world it's in, so being someone in the world of art means that I have a way to understand some of the complexity of what's happening in the world.

Bill Duke

Film director and actor Bill Duke was born on February 26, 1943 in Poughkeepsie, New York and is the son of Ethel Douglas Duke and William Duke, Sr. After earning his A.A. degree from Dutchess Community College, Duke became interested in the performing arts while attending Boston University, although he initially enrolled as a pre-med student. He eventually majored in theater there and then went on to earn a M.A. degree in fine arts from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Duke later enrolled in the American Film Institute (AFI).

Duke began his career as an actor in New York City theaters like The Public Theater and New Federal Theater, performing in plays such as LeRoi Jones' Slave Ship and Melvin Van Peebles’ musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. Duke’s first movie role came in 1976 when he portrayed a fierce young Black Muslim revolutionary named “Abdullah Mohammed Akbar” in Car Wash. Duke’s television directorial debut came in 1982 when he directed episodes of Knot's Landing, Falcon Crest, and Flamingo Road for Lorimar Productions. Duke's most prominent and critically acclaimed television work, however, has been his direction of teleplays for the PBS series American Playhouse including “The Killing Floor,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” and “The Meeting,” a 90-minute drama that depicted an imaginary meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. During the 1980s, Duke amassed more than 100 television directing credits, including more than 70 episodes of roughly 20 television series such as Miami Vice, Dallas, Crime Story, Cagney and Lacey and Hill Street Blues. Duke directed his first feature film in 1990, a film adaptation of Chester Himes' novel A Rage in Harlem. Duke went on to direct many other films including Deep Cover, Sister Act 2, Hoodlum and Deacons for Defense.

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Duke to the California Film Commission, which works to enhance the economic climate of the state by keeping film industry jobs in California. Duke also works with non-profit and charity organizations such as Educating Young Minds, an organization that helps inner-city students excel at school and in life. Duke is the recipient of numerous awards including the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the NAACP’s Special Award for Outstanding Achievement, SCLC’s Drum Major for Justice Film Award and a Cable Ace Award. President Bill Clinton appointed Duke to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Duke was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 19, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.115

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/19/2008

Last Name

Duke

Occupation
Schools

Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School

Duchess Community College

Boston University

New York University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Bill

Birth City, State, Country

Poughkeepsie

HM ID

DUK04

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

True Power Is An Individual's Ability To Move From Failure To Failure With No Loss Of Enthusiasm.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

2/26/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Actor and film director Bill Duke (1943 - ) began his theater career in Harlem. He went on to direct several television series, including 'Hill Street Blues' and 'Knots Landing,' and films, such as 'A Rage in Harlem' and 'Deep Cover.' Duke also starred in 'Car Wash,' 'American Gigolo' and 'Menace II Society.'

Employment

Negro Ensemble Company

Howard University

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:1738,22:2494,32:2998,40:5778,70:14360,182:16740,222:22160,282:30324,451:30933,460:48180,729:48761,737:49093,742:49757,751:58826,848:60650,853:64312,898:64782,904:71012,992:82704,1075:83307,1085:83977,1093:89728,1139:92636,1157:94861,1193:95484,1202:101970,1265:104366,1293:107330,1300:108698,1336:112072,1354:122159,1449:123371,1461:124179,1470:125189,1496:132572,1584:133802,1606:134458,1617:134786,1622:139175,1697:144846,1810:147886,1912:160434,2204:162540,2240:164256,2274:164646,2280:165036,2286:169856,2317:172650,2336:175706,2367:181620,2423:181840,2428:182060,2433:186080,2480:188990,2518$0,0:491,4:2849,35:3497,46:4145,54:6328,221:32040,495:40751,610:41444,624:48289,707:51860,757:61639,894:75480,1028:76240,1040:77000,1051:77304,1056:86094,1145:86616,1152:87747,1170:90770,1195:91110,1201:92835,1227:93960,1244:98111,1287:98435,1292:100784,1335:106036,1412:110356,1496:110932,1511:111724,1528:116785,1568:118995,1615:129100,1737:137666,1874:143790,1920:145640,1963:148082,2016:151290,2032:160520,2141
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bill Duke's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bill Duke lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bill Duke describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bill Duke recalls his maternal family's move to Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bill Duke describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bill Duke describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bill Duke describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bill Duke describes how he takes after his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bill Duke describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bill Duke describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bill Duke talks about his family's self-sufficiency

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers his upbringing in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bill Duke describes the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers Violet Avenue Elementary School in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bill Duke remembers his early experiences with dyslexia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bill Duke describes his early interest in writing

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bill Duke remembers Dr. James Hall

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bill Duke recalls his introduction to theater at Boston University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bill Duke remembers Lloyd Richards

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bill Duke recalls developing his skills as a director

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers his favorite film and television programs

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bill Duke describes his early theater career in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers his introduction to Hollywood's entertainment industry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his short film, 'The Hero'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bill Duke remembers co-starring with Richard Gere in 'American Gigolo'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his transition to directing

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bill Duke remembers directing 'The Killing Floor'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bill Duke recalls directing 'A Raisin in the Sun' for PBS

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers acting in 'Commando' and 'Predator'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bill Duke recalls his directorial credits in the 1990s, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers directing 'Deep Cover'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his directorial philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bill Duke reflects upon his experiences as a director

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bill Duke talks about the art of acting

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Bill Duke talks about his favorite actors

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bill Duke recalls his directorial credits in the 1990s, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bill Duke talks about his book, 'Black Light'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bill Duke describes the film 'Deacons for Defense'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bill Duke talks about the California Film Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bill Duke describes his civic involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bill Duke reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bill Duke reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Bill Duke talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Bill Duke describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

8$2

DATitle
Bill Duke talks about the art of acting
Bill Duke talks about his book, 'Black Light'
Transcript
--As an actor, it's a different kind of feeling. It's just--it's like writing. I'm a writer, but I don't write much anymore; it's just like too isolated for me, you know? If I get married, or I'm gonna be a writer again because I can--somebody's there, but writing is a desolate, desolate experience. People don't understand, I don't think how--writing is like--just, just you and, as they say, the tabula rosa [sic. tabula rasa]. It's that blank piece of paper, and you're writing, and you go, what the hell? What is that? You try to make it better. You don't, you don't even know if it's better; you feel it's better. That's how acting is. Acting is like--[HistoryMaker] Lloyd Richards used to say something like, it's falling into darkness backward; you just gotta trust. It's not because you're so bright or talented, but the degree of your research and preparation is important in the final analysis. See, stage fright--they call it stage fright, which you've probably seen, is this (gesture). You go on stage, and you're supposed to be John, but the actor is observing himself being John. So who's onstage? The actor and John. The writer didn't write the, the, the part for Bill and John (laughter), he just wants John (laughter), so Bill has to surrender whatever he is to John. That process of surrender is called trust, and if you cannot do that, you end up being a--kind of a mannequin-like version of John 'cause John's not there. You watching John, or pretending to be John, is there.$$Well, you know, we, we still have like certain iconic actors, I guess, that people write for them to be them playing a role, you know, in a way. I mean, I guess in the old days, like John Wayne really, you know, his parts were really written for a guy to--for John Wayne to be the, you know, the person, except for when he played Genghis Khan [in 'The Conqueror'] (laughter) (unclear) which didn't work out too well. But they, you know, they kind of write 'em for him, you know, he's just (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well yeah. And that--there's nothing wrong with that. They're called personality actors, and that's okay, and I, you know, I don't put that down. But the great actors of our time, the great actors of all time, you know, the great stage actors, the great--they play a spectrum of people from fathers to murderers, and every role they're in you believe it, you believe them. They have that facility, the ability to surrender to the craft in a way that's just phenomenal.$You published a book called 'Black Light: The African American Hero' [Paul Carter Harrison, Danny Glover and Bill Duke].$$It's a collaboration between [HistoryMaker] Danny Glover and myself.$$Okay.$$Uh-huh.$$And now what were you trying to do in that book?$$Pray--pay homage to all the people who had made it possible for me to be here, all the sacrifices they had made, all the deaths, all the, the limbs that had been cut off, all of the--coming over on this middle passage. All the not being able to go in the same bathroom, at the same water fountain, standing up for who you were and are, and--so that we could be here talking now.$$So it was like a photo essay type of book, right?$$It's, it's, it's, it's photographs, but also it's writing about the history and so on.$$Okay. Now, it's read at--that directors write history and stuff, but you, you see--you don't see yourself just as a director, I guess, in the generic sense, right?$$Well, directing--in order to direct successfully, I really think that you have to be dabbling in everything from writing to painting. I mean directorially, you're creating composition, and it's moving motion pictures. If you study the composition of still pictures, then you get an understanding of what balance is in a frame, and so you try your best to study the greatest painters of all time, which I tried to do, and to borrow from them in terms of understanding composition. 'Cause composition is not only where you place people, but composition also has to do with texture and color because someone that's way in the back can be the center of focus of the, of the frame if they have red on and everybody in the front has on white. You learn things from painting and sculpture and great writers from T.S. Eliot to, I mean to, name them, I mean you know. You, you set yourself to a standard. If you're, if you're your only standard it's kind of convoluted, but if your standard is to be as--if someone has set a mark for you and you say, I would like to be able to tell a story as well as Lorraine Hansberry or T.S. Eliot in his poetry, or whoever it is, that's, that's to me is part of it.