Jeanelle Stovall

Jeanelle Stovall
(1939  – January 17, 2005)
Arts & Education Activist Associate Director to Katherine Dunham

A native of Atlanta, she lived in East St. Louis for more than 37 years. Born into a career military family, Ms. Stovall traveled extensively as a child before graduating from Spelman College. Fluent in several languages, including French, she was employed as one of the first Black United Nations simultaneous translators ever. She spent extensive time being trained in Europe for this very difficult, specialized and prestigious role. During her service as a simultaneous interpreter to the UN in 1966, she met Ms. Dunham at the First World Festival (Dakar, Senegal)

In 1967, when Ms. Dunham became Artist-in-Residence and Director of the Performing Arts Training Center at Southern Illinois University-East St. Louis, she invited Ms. Stovall to become the executive director of the Centers. However, characteristic of her modesty, Ms. Stovall insisted that as creator of the vision, Ms. Dunham should always be listed as Founder and Executive Director. She said she was more than content to be listed as associate director. They formed a brilliant working relationship during which Ms. Stovall became what some described as Ms. Dunham’s “right hand.” Their association blossomed into a lifelong friendship that lasted beyond the SIUE-PATC years. To this day, her contributions to the Dunham Legacy remain unsurpassed as she committed her life to the Dunham vision.

At the time of her death, Ms. Stovall taught French part-time at McKendree College (Lebanon, IL). She was survived by one daughter, Kati Stovall, of New York City, a host of relatives and lifelong friends from around the world, and, of course, Ms. Dunham.

Leave a Reply