Press Release


Illinois Humanities Council welcomes 87-year-old tap dancer, film star, native Chicagoan as part of series marking 50th anniversary of

Brown v. Board of Education

CHICAGO- The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) will host, “An Evening with

Jeni LeGon,” a free event with 87-year-old Chicago native and dance legend Jeni LeGon, one of the first African American women to sign a contract with a major Hollywood studio, on July 29 at 6:00 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.

LeGon danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and appeared in scores of films with stars like Cab Calloway, Fred Astaire, and Judy Garland. The event includes a screening of the documentary film “Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way” by the National Film Board of Canada, followed by an interview with Dr. LeGon by Robin

Robinson, anchor of FOX News at 9.

This event is co-sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago

Human Rhythm Project (CHRP), and The HistoryMakers, and serves as the kickoff to the CHRP’s “Rhythm Asia” series at the MCA. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required and space is limited. To make reservations or for more information, contact the IHC at 312.422.5580 or send an email to

Excerpts from “Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way”:

Jeni LeGon, on arriving in Hollywood:

“I was floored. Just to think that me, a little skinny-legged kid coming out of Chicago, and I hadn’t been performing that long — nobody knew me. And to be able to work with him [Bill “Bojangles” Robinson] was the high point of my life. It was just wonderful.”

Jeni LeGon, on performing in London:

“It was an entirely different kind of life. We went from ‘black and white’ to just ‘people.’ That was the first time that I had been addressed as ‘Miss LeGon.’ People treated me like I was a person and not a person of color. I didn’t have to worry about going places and being told I couldn’t come in — that was the main thing. I mean, all the restaurants, hotels I was free to go in anytime.”

Jeni LeGon, on how far we’ve come:

“After thinking about it all these years and talking about this now, 60 years later, and I don’t think it’s changed an awful lot. There are some changes that have been good in the States but basically I don’t think they’ve done too much. There is still just this black and white world.”

“An Evening with Jeni LeGon” is part of the IHC’s “Brown v. Board 50 Years

Later: Conversations on Integration, Race, and the Courts,” a free, year-long series of programs going on around Illinois from May 2004-May 2005. Future events include a Brown-related film series; a panel discussing the impact of race on rhythm and blues; and an all-day series of discussions related to the various legacies, both positive and negative, of Brown.

For a calendar of events or for more information, please visit the IHC’s

Brown v. Board 50 Years Later” website at or contact the IHC at 312.422.5580 or via email at

Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ 91.5), Chicago Sun-Times, Comcast, and WYCC-TVChannel 20 are media sponsors for “Brown v. Board 50 Years Later.” “Brown

v. Board 50 Years Later” is funded in part by grants from The Boeing Company, Jovon Broadcasting, the Polk Bros. Foundation, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and Woods Fund of Chicago.


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