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City of IslandsCaribbean Intellectuals in New York$
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Tammy L. Brown

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781628462265

Published to University Press of Mississippi: January 2017

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781628462265.001.0001

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Pearl Primus and the Performance of African Diasporic Identities

Pearl Primus and the Performance of African Diasporic Identities

(p.97) Chapter 4 Pearl Primus and the Performance of African Diasporic Identities
City of Islands

Tammy L. Brown

University Press of Mississippi

From the 1940s through the 1950s, Trinidadian-born choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus was at the forefront of an artistic civil rights movement, what Dr. Brown terms a campaign of “artistic democracy.” While most scholars have used the term “modernism” to categorize this age of experimentation and marked movement away from realism and linear narrative form, especially in the realms of visual and literary art, Dr. Brown defines this time as an era of artistic democracy because of the ground-breaking work produced by black writers, musicians, actors, and dancers who used their art to imagine a better world—a world free from racism and class oppression. Democratic ideals also defined this time as black artists worked to dismantle racial segregation by joining multiracial performance art collectives and by protesting for the desegregation of venues where they performed. I contend that Pearl Primus’s use of dance as a mode of political protest in Jim Crow America was particularly powerful because at a time when black bodies were criminalized, demonized, mocked and physically attacked, Primus used physical movement to reclaim the sanctity and dignity of the black body.

Keywords:   Dance, Pearl Primus, African, Anthropology, Education

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