In 1964, Jamison made her New York City debut when Agnes de Mille of the American Ballet Theatre invited her to dance in "The Four Marys". In 1965, Jamison moved to New York and joined the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and later became a principle dancer. In 1971 Ailey choreographed Cry for Jamison, a 15 minute solo piece that expressed the struggles of black women. It is one of her signature pieces.
Jamison left Ailey dance company in 1980 to star in Sophisticated Ladies, a Broadway musical based on some of Duke Ellington's music. Tap great Gregory Hines was also part of that roster.
Jamison returned to Ailey's company and choreographed many of her own dances, her premier piece Divining, in 1984, and other works include Just Call Me Dance (1984), Into the Life (1987), Hymn (1993), Sweet Release (1996), and Double Exposure (2000).
When Alvin Ailey died in 1989, Jamison was named Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where she continues to choreograph dances. She published her autobiography "Dancing Spirit" in 1993. Jamison's numerous awards include Kennedy Center Honors (1999) and the National Medal of Arts (2001). She won a prime time Emmy Award and an American Choreography Award for Outstanding Choreography for the PBS "Great Performances: Dance In America" special, "A Hymn for Alvin Ailey."