Ailey was most popular as one of the first few African Americans who dared revolutionize their dance styles, which ultimately led to his contribution to modern American dance. It is in this respect though that he was able to subtly express for the first time his political convictions.
At the height of his success as a choreographer, when he was recognized no longer just for his art but also for how he used it to advance his political cause, Ailey was awarded the Spingarn Medal. Renowned composer-conductor Leonard DePaur, his presentation of the award, mentioned that Ailey “would confound and confuse Americas critics by refusing to conform to their pre-conceptions of what a black choreographer must be” (NAACP 1977, p. 100). With this distinction, it is clear that Ailey had been able to infuse his politics in the development of his choreography and in the performance of his dance. Through his art, he was able to challenge stereotyping that was brought about by racism and bigotry. This paper seeks to explain the bases why Ailey incorporated his political activism into the art form that he specializes in and how this has contributed to America’s struggle against racism.
Alvin Ailey was born in January 5, 1931, when the United States, particularly the Southern states were still enforcing laws and other policies that discriminated African Americans. Texas, in which Ailey had most of his childhood, was one of the states where racial segregation was strictly being implemented. Ailey was raised by his mother alone, after his father left them. Aside from the treatment that they receive from the whites because of their race, Ailey and his mother also suffered due to their constant lack of income. Ailey’s family was basically working class and his mother picked cotton and occasionally did domestic chores for the more affluent white families (Cardwell 2006, p.38). This childhood of want