Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Katherine Dunham, Redmond & the EBR Digital Collection

By Danielle Hall 

It would be difficult to discuss the EBR African American Cultural Life Digital Collection without highlighting the remarkable photos of Redmond with the legendary Katherine Dunham. The friendship between Redmond and Dunham dates back to 1967 when Redmond met Dunham for the first time while teaching at Southern Illinois University’s Experiment in Higher Education (EHE).

During that time, Dunham had established the Performing Arts Training Center (PATC) in East St. Louis- also under the EHE. Redmond visited the PATC often, offering his services and community knowledge, and soon became a counselor and senior consultant there.

Dunham was influential to the East St. Louis community and especially to Redmond. She helped him shape and understand the relationships between literary, cultural, visual art, dance, music, poetry, black diaspora, and drums as the heartbeat of culture. Redmond was greatly influenced by his work with Dunham; hence, “drum voices” would appear in the title of his study, Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry, A Critical History (1976) and Drumvoices Revue, a literary journal.

A photo of Redmond with Dunham on her 91st birthday July 2, 2000, and the large birthday card is one of five photos from the online archived photo collection that captures one of several birthday celebrations Redmond celebrated with her over the course of a nearly four-decade friendship. Issues of Drumvoices Revue contained images of and interviews with Dunham as well as some of Redmond's own poetic tributes to Dunham and her contributions to dance and her community. The digital collection offers us an important opportunity to see notable figures such as Dunham in her later years and helps us to stay connected to what often becomes a distant memory of our American greats.

Related: The EBR Digital Collection

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