One of the most significant dancers, artists, and anthropologic figures of the 20th century, Katherine Dunham defied racial and gender boundaries during a time of stringent societal thought limitations. Beyond performance and enhancing dance, her movements transcended one of the original expressions of human emotion into an artform which created the landscape for the future of anthropology.
Her name is an honored technique of performing arts inspired by indigenous African and Afro-Caribbean dances. The school of her namesake, The Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theater, established in New York in 1945, was an honored institution instructing the likes of James Dean, Gregory Peck, Sidney Poitier, Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty.

This single lot auction includes the entirety of the listed contents and more.

Dunham's full bio and additional materials/images may be viewed at: which may be copied and pasted to your browser url.

1) The Minefield 1985 type copy edition belonging to the artist with handwritten edits and notes throughout. This widely known unpublished memoir is a recollection of the artist's life circa 1937-47 from her own perspective.

2) Katherine Dunham's 1954-55 Itinerary Book for staff direction during some of her busiest time. These sets of minutely detailed instructions document the artist's time in Europe and Hollywood, tour schedule, programs, fashion and accessory inventory, and explicit detail of planned order. With handwritten notes interspersed, this document has organizational subject tabs titled in order:

Dunham Theatre Requirements


Company Information


Personal Insurance


Production Insurance

Urgent Reminders




Passport Particulars

Payroll Information





Loose leaf pages of type copy accompany the section and include the fashion and jewelry requests for Mrs. Dunham's Louis Vuitton travel trunk.

3) Personal Address Book, circa 1968. A green woven information book entitled "Address and Telephone" in fading gold script to cover. The alphabetical ordered contact information includes significant political, art, theatre, religious and societal figures including artist Romare Bearden, dancer Alvin Ailey, then St. Louis, Missouri mayor Alphonso Cervantes, Reverend Charles Napier, Her Imperial Majesty Empress Mysikiitta Fa Senntao, then head of the Gheez Embassy located at Mt. Helion Sanctuary in Long Eddy, New York; also titled The Ambassadress of the Sun God and Resurrector of the Gheez Nation (Ethiopia), Hollywood studios and more.

4) Financial Records, both personal and company oriented, spanning decades, beginning in 1968 but mainly focusing on small portions of the 1980s. The hundreds of copies of personal checks are all hand signed in ink: Katherine Dunham. The company checks are facsimile signature stamped Katherine Dunham. Some material includes information regarding legendary theatre fixture John Pratt, Katherine's second husband. Travel documentation and hand signed flight vouchers are included in the financial records. Selkirk has ordered each check by date.

5) Personal photography including dozens of candid shots spanning decades. The majority of the photography is not picturing Dunham but capture the essence of the moment via visual documentation, included images of Leclerc. Undeveloped vintage negatives are included. Some photographs with handwritten notations verso. Photographer stamps include "Compliments Poet Eugene B. Redmond 618-398-5070" and early 1960's photos of Ethiopian dignitaries stamped "Desta Atlaw Photography" likely eluding to Shemelis Desta who recorded the tumultuous history of Ethiopia. From the early 60s until deposition, Desta was the former Emperor Haile Selassie’s official court photographer. During this time, he took photographs of state leaders, including a youthful Queen Elizabeth II.
Following the deposition of the Emperor in the 1970's, Desta continued to record government activity under the rule of the military dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam. Desta captured the colourful pageantry of state military processions as well as a state visit from Fidel Castro.

6) Special correspondences encompass personal handwritten and mailed communication with three (3) key figures in Katherine's life.

-Mrs. Greta Yawand-Wossen, Katherine's friend, financial confidant, and wife of then influential Ethiopian banker Mangesha Yawand-Wossen who litigated financial liens between the United States and African nations. Mr. Yawand-Wossen was known to be a dynamic and sometimes confusing figurehead of international banking. Photos of the couples wedding with handwritten notations to verso accompany the handwritten communication.

-Mr. Mor Thiam, an internationally renowned percussionist whom Mrs. Dunham mentored, cultivated, and eventually assisted in his emigration to the United States from Senegal. Photos of the artist performing for Ms. Dunham's company are bolstered by handwritten communication.

-Mrs. Jeanelle Stovall who was later Katherine Dunham's personal assistant and key personnel responsible for financial, organizational, communicational, and personal needs. Also included is large amounts of communication to Mrs. Stovall on behalf of Katherine's organization in East St. Louis, Illinois, USA.

-Vanoye Aikens (1917-2013) hand signed letters directed to Miss Dunham. The legendary dancer and choreographer was a stalwort of the famous Katherine Dunham Dance Company.

-Veve A. Clark (1944-2007) hand written correspondences including invitations to performances.

-Betty Abbot (d. 2005) hand written and signed letters updating Katherine Dunham on current project status.

7) The 1983 Kennedy Honors Invitations for Katherine's nomination sent from the White House by President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Invitations to family members and close assistants are included. An original mailing envelope is included with other later invitations to the future Kennedy Honors.

8) Travel and Leisure - personal letters including nine (9) hand written by Katherine Dunham; most letters directed to Mrs. Dunham. Hundreds of examples of mailed and handwritten communication from across the globe from well known societal figures. Several letters also directed to Katherine's assistant Mrs. Jeanelle Stovall in relations to Katherine's company. Some of the most notable and heartfelt letters from Katherine Dunham handwritten directly to her close friends simply signed "K" and "Mami" at times. Intimate and detailed communications detailing time and place, mixed with emotional exchanges and small talk.

9) Katherine's personal playbill from Faust, an opera by Charles Gounod which took place on Valentine's Day weekend 1964 in Godfrey, Illinois USA. The copy is personally signed and noted by several members of the performance company. Signatures and notation include a paragraph from Doug Kopecky, signed "your stage manager and dancer", Dale Black, Annette Funkhauser, Dave Svelling, Gillian "Jill" Harrison, "Horace Comb_s" inscribed "To Aunt Katherine" and several others, most all inscriptions celebrating the artist's involvement in the production. An additional unsigned copy of the playbill is also included.

10) Personal Multimedia collection of literature, film, audio, and ephemera. Fundraising campaign material, personal articles, and more are included. A portion of the featured material from this section are as follows:

-text copy titled THE WORLD IN DANCE AND RITUAL PRESENTATION EXTRACTS. Katherine Dunham, Hotel Chelsea, 13 April 1964

-text copy titled A SONG, A DANCE, AND A PLAY An Interpretive Study of Three African American Artists by Leslie Morgan Collins. The copies title page notes "Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of American Culture WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY May 14, 1945

-Progress Report on THE KATHERINE DUNHAM ARCHIVES by VeVe A. Clark for the period September 25, 1977 to August 28, 1978 funded by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Illinois Dr. Emil Jason and by THE DUNHAM FUND

-A personalized author signed copy of Paradis Atomiques by R. Teldy Naim. This copy with inside cover inscribed in ink "A Katherine Dunham hommage de l'Auteur" and signed by the author

-A personal Uncorrected Advanced Proofs text copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou with publication date of February 25, 1970

-Multiple bound copies of KAISO! Katherine Dunham AN Anthology of Writings Edited by VeVe A. Clark & Margaret B. Wilkerson. The cover having an image of Katherine in dancing posture and noted "Institute for the Study of Social Change CCEW Women's Center University of California, Berkely 1978"

-The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (First Annual Banquet) on vinyl record album, September 20, 1970, with cover

-Vintage VHS casette with recordings of Katherine Dunham acceptance speeches

-Vintage production yellow VHS from 20/20 The Author {sic} Bell Story (Arthur)

-Vintage VHS "Magic with Katherine Dunham"

11) Material Culture items including Haitian tourist mementos, carved figures, costume jewelry, fashion accessories, whatnots and more. Not all items are photographed.

12) A complete sketchbook circa 1990 having all images in graphite on paper and host a variety of well composed yet innocent and simplistic figural drawings, some with notations. The work was likely a gift to Katherine Dunham from her god-daughter, and her personal assistant Jeanelle Stovall's birth daughter, Katherine Stovall. Many of the pages noting "Ti Kati" a childhood name.

13) Miscellaneous letters, postcards, ephemera and more. Various articles from notable figures of the arts, education, and political world. Hundreds of paper copies of communications from afar and domestic. Cold communications, follow up communications, and a host of other handwritten and typed correspondences accompany this section. Very historically significant communication between Katherine Dunham and University of California Berkeley Anthropology Department, circa 1970's.

14) Awards, Honors, and Academic Achievements Documentation of Katherine Dunham's honorary degrees from high profile institutions including Washington University in St. Louis (hand signed letter from Chancellor William H. Danforth), University of California, Berkeley, a hand signed large format vintage Fulbright Award, several other pieces of documentation highlighting Katherine's accomplishments. Dozens of examples of private communication accompany the awards.

15) John Pratt documents and records other than banking include travel, communications, receipts, and some literature having Pratt featured. John Pratt (American, deceased 1986) death certificate.

The New York Times Obituary of 1986 reads: "John Pratt, a scenic and costume designer for the dance and the theater, died Wednesday at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. He was 74 years old and had lived in East St. Louis, Ill., and Port au Prince, Haiti.

At the start of his career, after graduation from the University of Chicago, Mr. Pratt worked with the Federal Theater and for the dancers Ruth Page, Grace and Kurt Graf, and Katherine Dunham, the noted choreographer and ethnologist, whom he later married. In New York, he went on to work on two musicals, ''Swing Mikado'' and ''Pins and Needles.'' He also created designs for Agnes de Mille and Miriam Winslow.

Mr. Pratt, a naturalized citizen who was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, served for three years in the Army. He then toured with Miss Dunham as her designer and technical director. He became the costume and set designer for Miss Dunham's company of dancers, singers and musicians. Mr. Pratt also designed costumes for Jerome Robbins, Hermione Gingold, and theater, films and television productions in the United States and Europe.

Mr. Pratt is survived by Miss Dunham, who lives in Port au Prince; a daughter, Marie-Christine Dunham-Pratt of Rome; a brother, Davis Pratt of Carbondale, Ill., and a sister, Mary Hughes Murphy of Providence, R.I.".

Provenance: The Artist,

A private St. Louis collection, by descent

This single lot auction includes the entirety of the listed contents and more. Not all articles are captured in photograph. Inquire via email inf[email protected]. or on our website

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Shipment is the full responsibility of the buyer. Selkirk will not be responsible for any loss, damage, theft, or otherwise responsible for any items left in Selkirk's possession fifteen (15) days after the sale. If arrangements for shipping have not been made and communicated within thirty (30) days, Selkirk reserves the right, at this time, to charge a storage fee of $10 per lot per day for furniture and large format items and $5 per lot per day for all other items, and within sixty (60) days, at its own discretion, sell any items left on the premises. Accumulated fees resulting from storage and insurance cost will be taken out of any proceeds.

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February 22, 2022 2:00 PM CST
St. Louis, MO, US

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $29 $5
$30 $99 $10
$100 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $2,999 $100
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $29,999 $1,000
$30,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 $99,999 $5,000
$100,000 $299,999 $10,000
$300,000 $499,999 $25,000
$500,000 + $50,000