Raven Wilkinson, born in 1935, became the first black American woman ever hired as a permanent member of a major ballet company. This acceptance came with one condition; she had to pretend she was white in order to perform in the segregated South. Two years into her career, at an Atlanta hotel, Wilkinson decided she wouldn’t outright deny her race when asked if she was colored by the hotel owner. Following that incident her dancing was limited within the company and after several years of enduring the cruelty she left the company. Wilkinson eventually went to Holland, where she danced as a soloist with the Dutch National Ballet.
(Top: Wilkinson w/ black American ballerina Misty Copeland)