Photo credit: The Madison Square Garden Company
(Whaddya think? Mullet at some point in the 70s?)
Rockettes and Race: Barrier Slips. (The New York Times, 12/26/1987)
President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. The Rockettes have sent 5,000 dancers onto the stage of Radio City Music Hall over the years, but never was a black face among them.
Finally, however, the color barrier in what is perhaps the world's most famous chorus line is beginning to fall.
Two months ago, a black woman became the first of her race chosen at an audition to be on call for vacancies in the New York production. Although she has not yet performed, she may soon do so.
The Rockettes: Diversity & Empowerment, (Media History of New York, 3/29/2014)
Richard Spencer's artistic vision. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the Rockettes faced criticism for its lack of diversity. A New York Times article reported, “‘They [the Rockettes] stayed lily white all these years – in New York City, of all places,’ said Hazel N. Dukes, president of the New York State chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. ‘When I hear ‘White Christmas,’ to me it doesn’t mean Caucasian Christmas – it means American Christmas.’”[i] An all-white line of girls was defended by the artistic vision that the Rockettes were supposed to dance, perform, and look as one, and a dancer of color would distract and draw the audience’s gaze from the troupe as a whole.