When Wilkinson was accepted into the corps of
the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1954, she became the first
African American woman ever hired as a permanent member of
a major ballet company. Wilkinson rose to soloist during her
second season and stayed with the company for six years. Ultimately
she was forced to give up her position in the Ballet Russe
when increasingly hostile racism made it impossible for her
to tour in the South. After leaving the company, she joined
a convent for 8 months before deciding to return to dance.
Finding that no other American ballet companies would hire
her, Wilkinson went to Holland, where she danced as a soloist
with the Dutch National Ballet. In 1974, she returned to America
to perform character roles with the New York Metropolitan
Opera. Raven Wilkinson lives in New York City and continues
to perform with the Opera.