Katherine Dunham, Tax Revolts, and Me
Katherine Dunham is dead at age 96. She was a pioneering black dancer and innovative choreographer. She directed dance routines for such films as"Stormy Weather" and helped to introduce African and Caribbean forms to American dance.
I met Dunham in the early 1980s. I had come to her home in the middle of a run-down neighborhood of East Saint Louis to interview her long-time husband, John T. Pratt. Pratt, who was white, was the son of John M. Pratt, the head of the Chicago tax revolt discussed in my book, Taxpayers in Revolt: Tax Resistance during the Great Depression.
I mainly remember Dunham as a gracious woman who came in periodically during our interview to give us coffee and cookies. I felt like kicking myself when I found out later who she was. On the other hand, it was probably not too often that her husband was the center of attention.
John T. Pratt, who worked as a theater designer alongside his wife for nearly fifty years, was a fascinating individual in his own right. He had important insights to share about his father as well as some fascinating stories about his experiences as a soldier at the Nuremberg trials.
In a time when interracial marriage was rare, he said that his father did not hesitate to welcome Dunham into the family.
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