Being White in Black History

One of the most notable people in black history should be Eugene Von Grona. Not too many times can someone refer to Black history in America and include a person of Caucasian decent who has made a positive impact in the development of Black culture. There is great controversy in his true significance in black history because he is not actually a Black person nor is he a person of African American decent. Von Gronoa gets credit for creating a significant historical landmark in Black history when he organized the first American Negro Ballet. How he came to being a major part of black history is actually a pretty interesting story. eugene-von-grona-2

He was a white immigrant from Germany, as well as an established professional dancer/choreographer while in Germany. He’s always seemed to have an obsession to the movements and dance structure of slaves displayed on plantations during 18th century American slavery. Von Grona grew an unbreakable attraction to the dance moves as they evolved and were on public display along the Harlem Jazz scene, in which also made a slow transition to the liberal Wiemar Republic in Germany. After much consideration, Von Grona and his wife decided to make the migration to America in the early 1920s.

He and his wife made residence in the wonderful cultured state of New York. This gave him a chance to involve himself in the fruitful dance scene as well as interact with both Black and White cultures. eugene-von-grona-3However, his knowledge of American segregation was limited when it came the severity of how racism was displayed in reality. He grew constant frustration to the all white casts he was forced to work with while working in American ballet. Constantly he had to comply to misconstrued norms of the dominant and manipulative white culture of entertainment. Distraught by the lack of opportunity of creativity and exposure to other cultures residing in America, he decided to change that norm.

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After a few months, he began advertising for dancers in Harlem and at one point offering scholarships to some as well to join the first American Negro Ballet.

The debut performance was November 21, 1937 at the Lafayette Theater. Although the first show was a complete bust, conversation started and desegregated dance troupes started emerging nationally as well as internationally.

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