Anne Benna Sims joins American Ballet Theatre

In 1978, Anne Benna Sims joined the American Ballet Theatre as the first African American female to hold a contract with the company.

Anne Benna Sims began her dance training at the age of 10. She studied until she was 17 when she graduated high school. After high school, she studied at the Harkness School of Ballet. Sims’ professional career began with Les Grands Ballet Canadiens, where she danced in the corps de ballet.

Though Sims was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre, her first principal role was in Anthony Tudor’s Undertow with Peter Fonseca; the piece was considered a “demanding dramatic ballet.”

Sims was also in the first cast of the company premiere of Paul Taylor’s Airs.

Other Happenings in 1978

American History

Jan 5: Arkansas judge rules against teaching creation in schools.
Feb 8: United States Senate proceedings are first broadcast on the radio.
May 26: Atlantic City opens first legal gambling casino.
Oct 10: Susan B. Anthony is featured on a new dollar coin approved by the US Congress.
Oct 13: US President Jimmy Carter answers phone calls on National Public Radio.
Nov 7: Marion Barry Jr. becomes the first Black mayor of Washington DC.
Nov 18: Jonestown Massacre—918 members of the Peoples Temple are murdered/commit suicide under the leadership of cult leader, Jim Jones.
Dec 1: US President Jimmy Carter doubles the national parks system.

World History

Jan 23: Sweden bans aerosol sprays, believing that they damage the ozone.
May 18: Italy legalizes abortion.
Feb 11: China lifts bans on Shakespeare, Aristotle, and Charles Dickens.
Sept 16: An earthquake in Iran kills 25,000 people.
Sept 17: Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat, and US President Jimmy Carter sign the Camp David Accords, starting communications regarding peace between Egypt and Israel.
Oct 5: Over 30 nations sign the Environmental Modification Convention, prohibiting weather warfare.
Oct 16: Pope John Paul II is elected.
Nov 3: USSR and Vietnam sign a peace and friendship treaty.
Dec 29: Spain’s constitution goes into effect, ending its 40-year dictatorship.

Arts & Sciences

April 2: Velcro is first sold.
May 3: First bulk spam email is sent.
June 11: The film Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, opens.
June 19: The comic strip Garfield, created by Jim Davis, is first printed.
Aug 11: Legionnaire’s disease is contained in Atlanta.
Oct 10: Steve Perry joins the band Journey.
Nov 3: Different Strokes first broadcasts on NBC.
Nov 26: The first lesbian-themed TV movie The Question of Love airs.
Dec 8: The Deer Hunter premieres in LA.
Use of lead-based paint is banned in the US.

Human & Civil Rights

Jan 8: Harvey Milk is the first openly gay person elected to a California public office.
Jan 13: NASA selects the first female astronauts.
Feb 1: Harriet Tubman is the first Black woman featured on a US postage stamp.
Mar 21: San Francisco passes the US’ most comprehensive bill regarding gay rights and discrimination.
Apr 25: Supreme Court rules that women cannot be required to pay more for pension.
May 1: Ernest Morial becomes the first Black mayor of New Orleans.
May 12: US Commerce Department declares that hurricane names will no longer be just female names.
Jun 9: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints dissolves ban of Black male members from holding the priesthood.
Jun 25: The rainbow flag is first used as a symbol of gay pride by Gilbert Baker at a march in San Francisco.
Oct 6: Hannah Gray becomes the first woman head of a US university.
Faye Wattleton becomes the first Black woman elected to the office of president of Planned Parenthood and is the first woman president since Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.


April 9: In separate NBA games, David Thompson and George Gervin score 73 and 63 points, respectively.
June 20: The first six teams of the Women’s Basketball League are created.
Sept 15: Muhammad Ali defeats Leon Spinks to become the first heavyweight champion to win the title three times.
Sept 26: NY Supreme Court rules that female sportswriters cannot be banned from locker rooms.

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