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Dorothy Buckeridge Nesbitt Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-183

Scope and Contents

Materials in this collection focus on Dorothy Nesbitt's service as a student, teacher, and advocate for dance and the arts, both in the Wilmington, North Carolina area and internationally, from the 1960s to the 1990s. Papers and photographs showcasing her passion for ballet and modern dance include workshop information, brochures, performance highlights, correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, articles, and scrapbook pages. Her educational material feature content on racial integration in the classroom, lectures, lesson plans, and essays. Her autobiography and recorded oral histories are also included, documenting her life of performance, advocacy, and service.


  • Creation: 1956-2003


Conditions Governing Access

Access to some materials in this collection has been restricted pursuant to extant statutory restrictions. Contact staff at the Center for Southeast North Carolina Archives and History ( for information on access to this collection.

Copyright Statement

Copyright retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical Note

Dorothy Buckeridge Nesbitt, born on April 2, 1922, often identifies herself as a "feminist before there was even a word for it." Politically active, intellectually and artistically inclined, she made her way as a dancer performing with the famous Ballets Russes Company which toured South America during WWII. Later, she married and settled in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where she became a local pioneer of the arts introducing the concept of dance to local school curriculums and what was then called Wilmington College.

Of British Episcopal descent, her family migrated to America from Canada. Her paternal grandfather, Hiel B. Buckeridge, owned and operated a weekly newspaper in Port Huron Michigan. Her father, Arthur B. Buckeridge, pioneered a credit bureau in Saginaw, Michigan and then later in New York City and Memphis, Tennessee. Both of these men had the nickname "Buckie"-- a nickname that Dorothy had as well. Her mother led the typical life for a woman of her generation in that she stayed at home, but she was a trained vocalist and enjoyed singing operatic arias. Dorothy was the oldest sibling with two younger sisters, Joanne and Barbara. Her mother died in a plane crash predicted in the tea-leaves of their family friend, Nan. It was after her mother's death that her father moved to Memphis.

Dorothy often hung out at the beach near Rockville Center, Long Island. Dorothy liked movement. She enjoyed swimming, running and dancing. Amongst the people who hung out at the beach were members of Abe Lyman's band and their wives. They encouraged Dorothy to explore "real" dance-not just the "dopey" (as she would call it) classes she had been taking in the suburbs. In September of 1937, she began studying at The School of American Ballet. She was at Jacob's Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts when DeBasil called to ask if she wanted to be in the Ballets Russes. Ballets Russes or Russian Ballet is noted for making an impact on the art world in what is now known as the Modernist Period. Diaghilev, the impresario of the company, was famous for fusing visual artists, musicians, choreographers and dancers into one complete artistic experience liberating the ballet from its confining tradition. A few of the famous ballets done by Ballets Russes include Afternoon of a Faun, Les Sylphides and Parade. Famous Les Ballets Russes dancers include Pavlova, Nijinsky and Karsavna. DeBasil led the second generation of Ballets Russes' dancers. Dorothy toured with the DeBasil Company from August, 1941 to May, 1945.

In 1951, she met her husband, Joe Nesbitt, on a fishing trip in Long Island. Joe, a Wilmington native and photographer, was known for having started the photography department at the Wilmington Star-News. For four years, he and Dorothy lived as artists in a cold-water flat in New York. In 1952, they moved to Wrightsville Beach and Dorothy began teaching dance in Wilmington. She taught everywhere from her own house to the housing projects. She started the first Community Arts Center in Wilmington, where she became the director and organized several national performances of dance in the area and taught desegregated classes. Dorothy also showcased her own dancing career in two performances at Thalian Hall in 1984 and 1987. She also worked with area schools to make dance a part of the curriculum. In 1973, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in History and Social Studies. In 2002, she obtained her Master’s Degree of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Dorothy was an active Democrat in New Hanover County since 1978. She wrote an autobiography titled Scrapbook of a Dancer. On May 14, 2008 Joe Nesbitt passed away. Nearly six years later, on February 4, 2014, Dorothy passed away. They are survived by two daughters, Diane Thomas and Pamela Nesbitt.


21 Containers (Contains 19 document boxes and 2 oversize boxes)

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Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Dorothy Nesbitt on October 25, 2001.

Dorothy Buckeridge Nesbitt Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository