01/26 – The Apollo Theatre

The Apollo Theatre in NYC. (Pinterest.com)

On this day in 1934, the Apollo Theatre first opened its doors to Black Americans. The theatre, which had begun life in 1914 as a Whites-only venue, quickly became a fixture in Harlem, NYC. Its first show in 1934 was Chocolate Soldiers starring Adelaide Hall; the success of the show helped build the Apollo’s reputation, and other acts – Broadway and otherwise – soon followed. In the late 1930s “Swing” era (also known as the “Harlem Renaissance”) the Apollo began hosting jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. However, the Apollo’s most endearing legacy was (and remains) the Amateur Night at the Apollo, an event that showcases new talent. Countless Black performers got their start there, such as:

  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • James Brown
  • The Jackson 5
  • Sammy Davis Jr.
  • Diana Ross
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Lauryn Hill
  • Parliament Funkadelic

Although the Apollo – like much of New York – fell into disrepair during the 1970s, it saw a gradual resurgence during the following decades. Now an official NYC landmark, the theatre draws roughly 1.3 million visitors annually. Although the Apollo never really found success as a Whites-only theatre, its status as a landmark in Black (and American) culture remains undisputed.

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