Operation Breadbasket: Teaching Civil Rights History Through Dance

Panoramic Dance Project performing Operation Breadbasket.

Operation Breadbasket. Photo by Benjamin Scott.

Throughout the 2013-2014 school year, Panoramic Dance Project developed Operation Breadbasket, a mixed media modern dance honoring its namesake Civil Rights movement.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference launched Operation Breadbasket in 1962 to create economic opportunities in African American communities by calling on ministers of black churches to persuade their congregations to limit their patronage to businesses that engaged in equitable hiring practices.

Operation Breadbasket was choreographed by artistic director Tara Z. Mullins, along with renowned guest choreographers Willie Hinton and L.D. Burris (former member of Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble). Choreography was set to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1967 “Where do we go from here?” speech, a selection of gospel and soul music, and an original, commissioned documentary-style interview with Robert J. Brown, former public relations consultant for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Operation Breadbasket boycott negotiator.

Student Perspective

Reflections on the experience of creating Operation Breadbasket

“Operation Breadbasket was a transformational experience that seriously pushed my understanding of the Civil Rights movement and people wide open.

What I appreciate the most is that the story, although told from an African American perspective, wasn’t portrayed as an African American issue – but a human issue. And that is what I felt that we embodied in practice and on stage as a company.

Panoramic rehearsing for Operation Breadbasket.

Rehearsal for Operation Breadbasket. Photo by Benjamin Scott.

Panoramic Dance Project is comprised of female, male, black, white, Asian, undergraduate and graduate students, all kinds of majors, all kinds of dance backgrounds, and all kinds of family histories, but that doesn’t matter when we are in the studio.

I feel like we embodied Operation Breadbasket in the fact of we all came together to overcome mistakes, misconceptions and not just to learn a dance but have genuine conversations as people and embrace the human issue together.”

–John Miller, IV, third year Panoramic Dance Company member