01-05-1931 – 12-01-1989 Alvin Ailey Jr. – Born in Rogers, Texas. He was an African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York City. He is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. Ailey was born to his 17-year old mother in Rogers, Texas. His father abandoned the family when Alvin was six months old. He grew up during a time of racial segregation, violence, and lynchings against African Americans. When he was five, his mother was raped by a group of white men, leaving him afraid of whites. It was his early experiences in the Baptist church and juke joints that instilled in him a fierce sense of black pride. In 1942, Ailey’s mother moved to Los Angeles where he attended predominantly black schools. He belonged to the glee club, wrote poetry, and demonstrated a talent for languages. He became serious about dance in 1949 when his school friend Carmen De Lavallade introduced him to the Hollywood studio of Lester Horton. (He kept his life as a dancer a secret from his mother for the first two years) Horton became his mentor, giving him both a technique and a foundation with which to grow. When Horton died in 1953, the tragedy left the company without an artistic director. Ailey assumed the position. In 1958 he formed his own group, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. His company is multi-racial and always employed artists based solely on talent and integrity. In 1988, he received the Kennedy Center Honors. Ailey died one year later at the age of 58. To protect his mother from the social stigma of his death from AIDS, he asked his doctor to announce that he had died of terminal blood dyscrasia. Ailey was openly gay and was romantically involved with a white school teacher for several years. In 2014, President Obama selected Ailey to be a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.