Janet Collins: Born March 7, 1917, in New Orleans, Louisiana; prima ballerina, was the first black artist to perform on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. After touring the USA and Canada, she taught at several schools in NYC and California before settling in Seattle to paint.

“The reason I became ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera was because I couldn’t be topped. You don’t get there because, you get there in spite of….

The Met had never seen a black face. Marian Anderson couldn’t get in there. I felt like a doorknob. I was the dance who opened the door.

The Metropolitan Opera was going on tour. Mr. Rudolph Bing, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, called me into his office one day and he was very uncomfortable. He said, ‘Miss. Collins, I do not like what I have to tell you, but I am not Abraham Lincoln.’ He said he could not take me south on tour because there was a law down there that blacks and whites could not appear on the same stage together.

I tried to speak to an old friend, but she put me on a pedestal. I just wanted to talk and she said, ‘Oh, you are not like the rest of us. You are Sunday and we are everyday.’

Your own family can do that to you. Always asking what are you doing next, and we have read so and so, and we are collecting your reviews. But never, ‘Are you lonely? How do you feel?’

When you get to be an exceptional black, you don’t belong to the white and you don’t belong to the black. You are too good for the black and you will always be black to the white.'”

Janet Collins, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America


With Grace we glide

constant movement

silent still strength

we open doors


sealed by hatred and ignorance

weaker than Love

the door cannot remain


it cracks then opens

as we move, jump, spin, bend

and glide with Grace


“Art serves me. I don’t serve it. But I have to be a servant before it serves me. In other words, I have to be disciplined. There is no such thing as freedom without discipline. The one who is free is disciplined.

A vertical line is dignity. The horizontal line is peaceful. The obtuse angle is action. That’s universal, it is primary.

I used every gift God gave me. The gift of live is the greatest. It’s a difficult thing because there are people I know that I can’t stand. But love doesn’t mean affection. It means treating them justly even when they are terrible people That takes a bit of doing, and awful lot of Grace.”

Janet Collins, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America