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Melvin Deal interview, 2018-05-14

Identifier: dcpl_dcohc010

Scope and Contents

"Melvin Deal reflects on his work performing, choreographing, managing, and promoting African dance, which he has been involved in for over half a century. He speaks about how when he started dancing it was generally understood that you had to do ballet, if you wanted to be successful. But he was drawn to African dance and decided to follow that desire. At the time, decolonization was happening in Africa. Part of his work was fighting stereotypes about Africa. He reflects that at the time they were being romantic about being Africans. His interests brought him to take his first trip to Africa in 1969. Many of his former students were at-risk youths that credit him with having changed the direction of their lives. Through his African Heritage dancers, he won legitimacy for African culture in the community and the larger city. He speaks about educating a Washington Post writer about Africa dance and how the resulting articles led to a large uptick in attendance at African dance events. He expresses concerned about young people’s sense of personhood, “I feel like I am someone now”, is the feeling he wants young people to feel."


  • Creation: 2018-05-14


Biographical / Historical

Melvin Deal has been an integral part of the Washington, D.C. African dance community for over five decades. He is a Washington, D.C. native that started dancing in 1959. He graduated from Howard University in 1965. His contributions include having trained countless at-risk youth in dance, residencies at all the major Washington, D.C. area universities, helping to found the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, and work with the DanceAfrica festival.


From the Collection: 1.13 Terabytes

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001