The Times podcast: America’s first Black prima ballerina: Bernice Harrison

A vertical black-and-white full-body photo of ballet dancers James Truitte and Bernice Harrison in a dance pose.
Ballet dancers James Truitte and Bernice Harrison in 1947.
(Joseph Rickard papers, 1946-2003 / The Huntington)

When you think of Black ballerinas, names like Misty Copeland or Janet Collins may come to mind. But did you know that a classical ballet dancer from L.A. named Bernice Harrison predated both of them?

Today, the lesser-known story of Harrison’s rise to become the first Black prima ballerina, and the legacy of the First Negro Classical Ballet Company. Read the full transcript here.
Host: L.A. Times producer Ashlea Brown
Guest: Kenneth Marcus professor of history at the University of Laverne

More reading:


First Negro Classical Ballet and Bernice Harrison

L.A. Times Today: In ‘Kylie,’ a Black ballerina shares her experience in the ballet community

Misty Copeland, Calvin Royal III and the rarity of a black couple dancing lead roles

VIDEO | 06:35
LA Times Today: How L.A. helped break barriers in ballet with the First Negro Classic Ballet company

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About The Times

“The Times” is produced by Denise Guerra, Kasia Broussalian, David Toledo and Ashlea Brown. Our editorial assistants are Roberto Reyes and Nicolas Perez. Our engineers are Mario Diaz, Mark Nieto and Mike Heflin. Our fellow is Helen Li. Our editor is Kinsee Morlan. Our executive producers are Jazmin Aguilera, Heba Elorbany and Shani Hilton. And our theme music is by Andrew Eapen.