Bernice Hammond founds Hammond Dance Studio

(Washington DC)

© Robert H. McNeill

Bernice Hammond (b. 1918) began her training at the age of nine in 1927 at a local YMCA.  She received private lessons from dancer choreographer Lisa Gardiner, formerly a Fokine dancer, because Gardiner wanted to avoid losing students in segregated Washington, D.C.  Hammond left Howard University where she was pursuing a degree in art to teach dance.  She opened her own dance school, the Hammond Dance Studios in 1939. Hammond also pursued dance study in New York.  Like Therrell Smith, she studied ballet at Carnegie Hall’s Ballet Arts. In 1949, she formed Ballet Africana Americana, which performed accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra, an unusual occurrence for any dance school at the time.  Her company performed with the National Negro Opera.  “Ms. Hammond would invite guest teachers to conduct dance classes, and has employed such notables as John Sergieff of the Russian Imperial Ballet School and Leroy White of the Jose Limon Company.”  Hammond is also “credited with being the first in the area to send a student, Ruth Thomas, to the prestigious School of American Ballet.”  Like her colleagues in Washington, Hammond enabled African Americans to obtain good ballet training.

Source: Dr.  Josselli Audain Deans


This is Dancing in the Dark: Interview #1 Bernice Hammond.


Other Happenings in 1939


  • Mar 7 Glamour magazine begins publishing
  • Apr 30 NBC/RCA 1st public TV demo with FDR at opening of NY World’s Fair
  • May 16 Food stamps are 1st issued
  • May 1 Batman first appears in Detective Comics #27
  • Jun 23 US Congress establishes US Coast Guard Reserve (renamed US Coast Guard Auxiliary 1941) as uniformed volunteer units supporting the Coast Guard
  • Aug 6 1st broadcast of “Dinah Shore Show” on NBC-radio
  • Sep 1 In the “scoop of the century,” Telegraph journalist Clare Hollingworth becomes the first to report the outbreak of World War II
  • Oct 15 LaGuardia Airport opens in NYC
  • Nov 11 Kate Smith first sings Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”
  • Nov 15 The first unemployment compensation law, under the Social Security Act, that of the District of Columbia, was approved for grants by the Social Security Board


  • Jan 30 Adolf Hitler threatens Jews during his speech to the German Reichstag (Parliament)
  • Mar 12 Pope Pius XII crowned in Vatican ceremonies
  • Mar 31 Britain & France agree to support Poland if invaded by Germany
  • May 22 Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini sign “Pact of Steel” in Berlin, Germany
  • Jun 17 Last public guillotining in France. Eugen Weidmann, a convicted murderer, is guillotined in Versailles outside the prison Saint-Pierre
  • Aug 30 Isoroku Yamamoto appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese fleet
  • Sep 1 Switzerland proclaims neutrality at the outbreak of WWII
  • Oct 1 Winston Churchill calls Russia a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”
  • Oct 6 Adolf Hitler announces plans to regulate Jewish problem
  • Oct 16, Charlotte Maxeke (b.1871), South African social worker and activist, died in Johannesburg. She was the first black South African woman to receive a college degree (Ohio’s Wilberforce University, 1901)
  • Oct 24 Nazi require wearing of Star of David by Jews
  • Nov 15 Nazis begin mass murder of Warsaw Jews

Arts and Sciences

  • Jan 12 Timely Comics (later Marvel) founded by American publisher Martin Goodman in New York
  • Jan 25 1st nuclear fission experiment (splitting of a uranium atom) in the US, in basement of Pupin Hall, Columbia University by a team including Enrico Fermi
  • Aug 15 “The Wizard of Oz”, American musical fantasy film directed by Victor Fleming and King Vidor, premieres at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Hollywood
  • Feb 23 11th Academy Awards: “You Can’t Take It With You”, Spencer Tracy & Bette Davis wins
  • Mar 28 Philip Barry’s “Philadelphia Story” premieres in NYC
  • Apr 9 Marian Anderson sings before 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • Jul 13 Frank Sinatra makes his recording debut
  • Jul 15 Clara Adams (NYC) is 1st woman to complete round world flight
  • Oct 11 Albert Einstein informs FDR of the possibilities of an atomic bomb
  • Dec 15 “Gone With the Wind”, drama film premieres in Atlanta (Best Picture 1940, inflation not adjusted highest-grossing film of all time)

Human and Civil Rights

  • Jan 3 Gene Cox becomes 1st girl page in US House of Representatives
  • Jan 30 Adolf Hitler threatens Jews during his speech to the German Reichstag (Parliament
  • Mar 3 Mahatma Gandhi begins a fast in Mumbai (Bombay) to protest against autocratic rule in India
  • Aug 20 1st black bowling league formed (National Bowling Assoc)
  • Sep 1 Adolf Hitler orders extermination of mentally ill through the “T4 Euthanasia Program,” arguing that wartime “was the best time for the elimination of the incurably ill”
  • Oct 11 NAACP organized Legal Defense & Education Fund


  • Jan 15 1st NFL All Star Game, Wrigley Field, Chicago: New York Giants beat All America All-Stars, 13-10
  • Jan 25 Joe Louis KOs John Henry Lewis in 1 for heavyweight boxing title
  • May 17 1st televised baseball game is broadcast on NBC, with Princeton defeating Columbia 2-1

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