Alvin Ailey Papers

Allan Gray Family Personal Papers of Alvin Ailey

The Black Archives of Mid-America is pleased to host and make available to the public the Allan Gray Family Personal Papers of Alvin Ailey (AC10), on long term loan from the Allan Gray Family.

Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) was one of the seminal figures in American choreography in the twentieth century. His most important works – including Blues SuiteRevelationsMasekela LangageCryNight CreatureMemoria, and For Bird, With Love – have been performed for audiences around the world. Mr. Ailey founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958. What started as a small group of seven dancers grew into a large, carefully managed, internationally known and celebrated company. As Mr. Ailey began considering a second home for his dance company, Kansas City civic leaders and arts organizations actively encouraged Mr. Ailey to consider Kansas City. The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, founded in 1984, serves as the official second home to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

While Mr. Ailey’s work speaks to human experience in general, it is rooted in the cultural and historical experience of African Americans. “From his roots as a slave,” wrote Mr. Ailey, “the American Negro – sometimes sorrowing, sometimes jubilant but always hopeful – has touched, illuminated, and influenced the most remote preserves of world civilization. I and my dance theater celebrate this trembling beauty.”

About the Allan Gray Family Personal Papers of Alvin Ailey:

Allan Gray was a long time personal friend of Alvin Ailey. When Mr. Ailey passed away in 1989, he entrusted his personal papers to him. Mr. Gray played a key role in bringing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to its second home here in Kansas City. The materials in the collection are from Mr. Ailey’s studio and office and reflect the dynamic energy of a restless creative mind.

The collection includes Mr. Ailey’s personal notebooks, calendars, and correspondence as well as Mr. Ailey’s book library, newspaper clippings documenting the company’s travels and performances, and other items chronicling Mr. Ailey’s career and the growth of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. A finding aid is available for the collection.