Remembering Ballet’s Color Barrier

Raven Wilkinson, who joined Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1955, was “not the first black ballet dancer to be given a regular post; that honor belongs to Janet Collins, hired by the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in 1951. Nor is she the most famous of such pioneers. Arthur Mitchell originated important roles in several seminal Balanchine ballets in the 1950s and ’60s, then founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem. But Wilkinson was the first black ballet dancer to tour the nation – not only to towns in the east, west and north but also to St. Louis, Macon and Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Hattiesburg, Miss.”