Bernice Harrison

First Negro Classical Ballet Company

James Truitte and Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison was a leading dancer with the First Negro Classical Ballet Company, founded by Joseph Rickard. She was prominently featured in FNCB’s production throughout its existence. Harrison is the first recorded African American woman to perform en pointe.

Harrison’s daughter is cited as being the catalyst for Rickard to start the FNCB school. After witnessing Harrison’s daughter being denied ballet classes by an instructor, Rickard opened the FNCB school for African American students (the first ballet school in Los Angeles for African American students). Harrison’s daughter became one of Rickard’s first students. Harrison then quickly began taking classes at the school and became a central presence in the company. Critics celebrated Harrison for being a leading ballet dancer who was also a mother to three children.


Bernice Harrison and Graham Johnson


Marcus, Kenneth H. “Dance Moves: An African American Ballet Company in Postwar Los Angeles.” Pacific Historical Review 83, no. 3 (2014): 487-527. doi:10.1525/phr.2014.83.3.487.
San Bernardino Sun, Volume 58, Number 307, 19 August 1952


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