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Daryl Cumber Dance

Educator Daryl Cumber Dance was born on January 17, 1938 in Richmond, Virginia to elementary school teacher Veronica Bell Cumber and entrepreneur Allen Cumber. Dance graduated from Ruthville High School in Ruthville, Virginia; and went on to earn her A.B. degree in English in 1957, and her M.A. degree in English in 1963, both from Virginia State College, now Virginia State University. She received her Ph.D. degree in English from the University of Virginia in 1971.

Dance was hired as an English teacher at Armstrong High School in Richmond, Virginia in 1957. She remained at Armstrong until 1962, when she returned to her alma mater, Virginia State College, as an instructor of English. After obtaining her Ph.D. degree in 1971, Dance returned to Virginia State College for one year as an assistant professor of English. She left in 1972 to join the faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University as an assistant professor of English, becoming an associate professor of English in 1978, and obtaining full professorship in 1985. Between 1983 and 1984, Dance also served as the acting coordinator of the Afro-American Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 1993, she joined the faculty of the University of Richmond as a professor of English. She was named the Sterling A. Brown Professor of English at Howard University in 2013. Dance served as the Jessie Ball duPont Visiting Scholar at the University of Richmond as well as the visiting professor of Black Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Dance authored nine books, including Shuckin' and Jivin': Folklore from Contemporary Black Americans (1978), Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical and Critical Sourcebook (1986), Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Women's Humor (1998), From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore (2002), and In Search of Annie Drew, the Mother and Muse of Jamaica Kincaid (2016). Dance also served on several boards and committees, including the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the Editorial Board of Encyclopedia Virginia, the University Press of Virginia Board of Directors, the Board of Visitors at Virginia State University, and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada; in addition to her memberships in the American Folklore Society, the American Studies Association, the Modern Language Association, the Zora Neale Hurston Society, the Richard Wright Society, and the Virginia Folklore Society.

She received numerous awards for her work, including the VCU Arts and Sciences Lecturer Award, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education's Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award, the Sister Circle Book Award for Outstanding Anthology, the Zora Neale Hurston Award from the National Association of Black Storytellers Annual Conference, and The Sojourner Truth Award from The African American Studies Program of George Mason University. The Daryl Cumber Dance Lifetime Achievement Award was created in 2012 by the College Language Association in Dance’s honor.

Daryl Cumber Dance was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 7, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.100

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/7/2016

Last Name

Dance

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widow

Middle Name

Cumber

Occupation
Schools

Ruthville High School

Virginia State University

University of Virginia

Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Daryl

Birth City, State, Country

Richmond

HM ID

DAN08

Favorite Season

All 4 Seasons

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Many Different Places

Favorite Quote

She Who Laughs, Lasts.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/17/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Richmond

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Educator Daryl Cumber Dance (1938 - ) served as professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University for twenty years, and at the University of Richmond for nineteen years. She was named the Sterling A. Brown Professor of English at Howard University in 2013.

Employment

University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University

University of Richmond

Virginia Commonwealth University

University of California, Santa Barbara

Virginia State University

Armstrong High School

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667247">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Daryl Cumber Dance's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667248">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Daryl Cumber Dance lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667249">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her mother's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667250">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the founding of Ruthville, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667251">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her mother's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667252">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her maternal grandfather</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667253">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the history of Charles City, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667254">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her family's history in Charles City, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667255">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her maternal grandfather, Luther Winston Bell</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667256">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her family's affiliation with Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667257">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her father's education and career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667258">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667259">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Daryl Cumber Dance remembers meeting her half-sister</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667260">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667261">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the founding of Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667262">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about color discrimination within the black community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667263">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her early interest in storytelling</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667264">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Daryl Cumber Dance remembers enrolling at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667265">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her love of reading</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667266">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her childhood activities and trips</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667267">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her experiences at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667268">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Daryl Cumber Dance remembers her professors at Virginia State College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667269">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the role of African Americans in the Civil War</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667270">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Daryl Cumber Dance recalls her activities at Virginia State College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667271">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Daryl Cumber Dance recalls her first year of teaching at Armstrong High School in Richmond, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667272">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the education and training of black teachers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667273">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her graduate education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667274">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Daryl Cumber Dance remembers the mentorship of Joseph Jenkins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667275">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the works of William Faulkner</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667276">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the representation of African American literaure</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667277">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Daryl Cumber Dance recalls the prominent civil rights activists in Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667278">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her experiences at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667279">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Daryl Cumber Dance remembers Houston A. Baker, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667280">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her dissertation on humor in African American folklore</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667281">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Daryl Cumber Dance recalls her decision to leave Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667282">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about developing courses on black folklore</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667283">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the process of collecting folklore</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667284">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her favorite stories from 'Shuckin' and Jivin''</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667285">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the practice of storytelling</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667286">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Daryl Cumber Dance remembers Richard M. Dorson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667287">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the response to her book, 'Shuckin' and Jivin''</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667288">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the folklore of the African diaspora</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667289">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes the differences between white and African American folklore</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667290">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the comedy of Richard Pryor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667291">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her book, 'New World Adams: Conversations with Contemporary West Indian Writers'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667292">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the Mecklenburg Six, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667293">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the Mecklenburg Six, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667294">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about the public response to the Mecklenburg Six</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667295">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her book, 'Honey, Hush!: An Anthology of African American Women's Humor'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667296">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about colloquialisms among African American women</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667297">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her recent books on African American folklore</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667298">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Daryl Cumber Dance remembers her student, Anand Prahlad</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667299">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her decision to leave Virginia Commonwealth University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667300">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her civic service</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667301">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667302">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Daryl Cumber Dance reflects upon her career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667303">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667304">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her recent projects</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667305">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Daryl Cumber Dance describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/667306">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Daryl Cumber Dance narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$6

DAStory

5$4

DATitle
Daryl Cumber Dance describes her mother's family background, pt. 2
Daryl Cumber Dance talks about her book, 'Honey, Hush!: An Anthology of African American Women's Humor'
Transcript
So--and it doesn't hurt to name names in this interview (laughter)--you know.$$All right. Okay. Well, it's very interesting. My grandmother's family, for example, her name was Sallie Brown [Sallie Brown Bell]. Then, she married Bell, then she married Brown. So, Sallie Corona Brown Bell Brown, was a member of a family who were farmers for the most part, though her mother is said to have had a school. We don't have any actual documentation of that little school where she taught children in the community. They had twelve children, six boys and six girls. One boy died very young. The five boys went on all to be in the medical field. Two of them finished Harvard Medical Schools [Boston, Massachusetts], one dentistry. Others--one other finished medical school, one finished podiatry, and one was a pharmacist. But, that says something about the nature of the families there. When Virginia State [Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute; Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia], now university, opened in the 1880s, my grandmother, my--told me how her mother [Sidney Brown] was so excited about a school that her children could attend and how she got together with her first cousin and they decided to send their boys to Virginia State. And they did, indeed, not only send their boys, but they sent several of the girls to Virginia State as well. That's where they met the man who was to become my grandfather. He was in the very first class that entered Virginia State. And these brothers started coming two years after that and they became friendly with him. And so he met my grandmother when he visited Charles City [Charles City County, Virginia] with these boys, but they did not marry then. He went on to marry someone who was in school with him, and when she died later, he came back and began courting my grandmother. And his is a glorious history, too. He was very much involved in the early days at Virginia State. He was very active as a student there. And the president, first president--black president appointed there was John Mercer Langston, and he became friendly with Langston who was also a lawyer and in politics as well. But, they were trying to get rid of Langston because Virginia State was always a very--a school that had many conflicts with the state government, but they had a powerful black man who helped to establish the school, and he made many demands which he was able to get through. One of them was that all of their faculty would be black and not white because he said, "If people can't eat with you, why do we trust them to teach our students?" And so, he insisted on a black--in fact, he insisted on a college and not just an industrial school which, again, was very rare for early black schools.$$That's right. They were called these--$$So, Virginia State started with a college. And my grandfather came and studied there, and when he finished the first program he was studying, Langston invited several of the students to stay and read law with him, so he was then studying, we might saw law, that might be something of an overstatement, but no question--$$Now that's in those days, that's--$$--about that's the way it happened in those days. But in the meantime, they were trying to change things at the school and trying to get rid of Langston. And my grandfather came to Richmond [Virginia] from the campus--the campus is in Petersburg [Virginia]--and demanded a hearing with the governor to speak on behalf of Langston. And when he returned to the school, there was a motion made in the faculty to dismiss him from leaving the school without permission. Langston refused to carry the motion, but finally, they got rid of Langston and then they expelled my grandfather as well. And my uncles, my grandmother's brothers who were there left in protest, and all three of them, those two brothers and, and my grandfather ended up at Harvard [Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts]. My grandfather first took some classes in law somewhere else in the area but then enrolled in Harvard where he studied. So, he has a very interesting history as well.$$What, what, what is your grandfather's name, again?$$Luther Winston Bell [Luther Bell], B-E-L-L.$Now, your next project was 'Honey, Hush!' ['Honey, Hush!: An Anthology of African American Women's Humor,' ed. Daryl Cumber Dance], right?$$'Honey, Hush!'. 'Honey, Hush!'.$$This is an anthology of African American women's humor (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Humor. Humor. That's right. I received a call from Norton press [W. W. Norton and Company] saying that they wanted me to do a collection of African American folklore. I had just read a book from their press, which was on southern humor and I said to them, again, indignant (laughter), my militant self, "You have this book on southern humor that has almost nothing about black women." And most of what he had was from 'Shuckin' and Jivin'' ['Shuckin' and Jivin': Folklore from Contemporary Black Americans,' Daryl Cumber Dance] on black women. I said, "I've already done a book on African American folklore. What you need is a book on black women's humor." And the lady said, "Send me a proposal." So, I hadn't really planned to do this, but sounded like a good idea, and I sent the proposal in right away and started working on it. And already--it's interesting how things are in your mind without your realizing they're in your mind. I realized all these wonderfully funny, humorous, ironical tales, stories, proverbs from African American women. So, I got to work on that. That was the most fun ever. And by the time I was working on that, I was a member of a group called the Wintergreen Women [Wintergreen Women Writers' Collective], and we're a group of mainly African American, but at least one white member, of women who got together because most of us were isolated as, you know, one of one or two black women working in larger schools and a chance to get together and talk about some issues that were affecting us. So, we started meeting every year. It turned out to be a wonderful thing. We've been meeting constantly now for close to thirty years. I--oh--yeah, close to thirty years. And one of the things we do when we meet is to share research projects and to get ideas from each other and get support from each other. So, I said to them when I went, "I'm gonna do a collection of African American women's humor. Help me. Give me--," so, [HistoryMaker] Nikki Giovanni said, "Well, I'll do the introduction to it," and she, she did, and it was--it's a wonderful one. And I think just about everybody in the group contributed some story to it. But, I couldn't get a title for it. So, I was working on a title and I'd send titles to my editor. I had a wonderful editor, Amy Cherry, at Norton and just couldn't get a title, and she would send me back. And so finally I just wrote to all the Wintergreen women and I said--and they knew about the book. They had helped to plan it. They had made contributions. So, I said, "We're having trouble with a title." And Joanne Gabbin [HistoryMaker Joanne V. Gabbin] at James Madison University [Harrisonburg, Virginia], who--very good friend of Gwendolyn Brooks and--who has honored Gwendolyn Brooks in so many ways, wrote back to me and said, "Honey, hush." And it hit me as just perfect. If you've been around black women, you know how common that phrase is, and it's not just black women. Again, when I was doing something for my last book, I talked to a white American who has lived in Antigua for fifty years and she said, "Honey, hush." So, I named it 'Honey, Hush!' and it's, it's been one of my most fun books, even though every time I say that, I think about how much fun I had with others as well. But, you know, I've gotten--I told you one of the things is the way people respond to the books. Women have written to me and they say, "This book got me through my divorce. This book helped me deal with the death of somebody." One women wrote to me and she said, "I keep 'Honey, Hush!' on my bed table and every night before I go to sleep, I read a selection and I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face." So, these kinds of things, you know, just, just are the most important responses to books. To me, it got really good book reviews, probably more reviews than any other book I've done.