Arts and Entertainment

Theater

What is the significance of the Apollo Theater?

The Apollo Theater, located at 235 West 125th Street in the Harlem section of New York City, is significant to African Americans for the opportunities that it gave black artists to showcase their talents. It was one of the first theaters in the nation to feature black artists and to be available to other minorities. Built in 1913, the classical revival structure was designed by architect George Keister. It served as a burlesque theater before it became a movie theater. It was sold in 1934 and reopened as the 125th Street Apollo. In 1934 radio host Ralph Cooper started the popular Apollo Theater Amateur Night; it launched the careers of several successful participants, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and much later the Jackson 5. The Apollo’s audiences declined in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1981 Percy E. Sutton, then Manhattan Borough president, bought the theater; it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and reopened in 1985. Once again the theater hosted the popular nationally syndicated program, Showtime at the Apollo. In 1991 New York State purchased the building. The Apollo Theater Foundation, a nonprofit, is aiding in its restoration.



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