African American Theater Buildings

An Illustrated Historical Directory, 1900–1955


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About the Book

African American theater buildings were theaters owned or managed by blacks or whites and serving an African American audience. Nearly 2,000 such theaters, including nickelodeons, vaudeville houses, storefronts, drive-ins, opera houses and neighborhood movie theaters, existed in the 20th century, yet very little has been written about them.
In this book the African American theater buildings from 1900 through 1955 are arranged by state, then by city, and then alphabetically under the name by which they were known. The street address, dates of operation, number of seats, architect, whether it was a member of TOBA (Theater Owners Booking Association), type of theater (nickelodeon, vaudeville, musical, drama or picture), alternate name(s), race and name of manager or owner, whether the audience was mixed, and the fate of the theater are given where known. Commentary by theater historians is also provided.

About the Author(s)

The late Eric Ledell Smith was a historian specializing in African American history with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. He lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Eric Ledell Smith
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 294
Bibliographic Info: 41 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011 [2003]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4922-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0466-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Preface      xi
Introduction      1

Alabama      9
Arizona      21
Arkansas      21
California      26
Colorado      34
Connecticut      34
Delaware      34
District of Columbia      35
Florida      46
Georgia      61
Illinois      73
Indiana      84
Iowa      88
Kansas      88
Kentucky      89
Louisiana      91
Maryland      101
Massachusetts      114
Michigan      115
Minnesota      122
Mississippi      122
Missouri      129
Nebraska      135
Nevada      136
New Jersey      136
New Mexico      138
New York      139
North Carolina      150
Ohio      163
Oklahoma      170
Pennsylvania      175
South Carolina      192
Tennessee      198
Texas      203
Virginia      222
Washington      235
West Virginia      235
Wisconsin      237

Appendix 1—Numbers of Theater Buildings      239
Appendix 2—Architects      241
Appendix 3—Owners and Managers      242
Appendix 4—African American Drive-in Theaters      247

Bibliography      249
Index      253

Book Reviews & Awards

Winner, Ray and Pat Browne Best Reference Award—Popular Culture Association
“essential purchase”—ARBA.