African American Studies Apollo Theater
by
Jaye Austin Williams
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190280024-0020

Introduction

The historic landmark known for the past century as the Apollo Theater, located at 253 West 125th Street, between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevards in Harlem, New York City, both exceeds singular definition and defies mere historical indexing. Further, the Apollo Theater persists as a barometer for the fundamentally constant condition of blacks in the United States; not least, those who continue to reside in Harlem today, under the press of the newest wave of millennial, corporate gentrification. As such, it stands as a dynamic nexus at which politics and culture meet, revealing how the sonic, eruptive potential of black political foment in transatlantic slavery’s wake is so often muted by the sonic reverberations of cultural celebration and consumption. This eclipsing does not, however, eradicate the fusion of political foment to black life in ways it is merely conditional to other lives. The landmark’s mercurial history is testament to this distinction. From its prequel, as a house of burlesque (the New Burlesque Theater) owned by Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamons, to its birth as the Apollo Theater, years after Sidney Cohen bought and first reopened it in 1914, the world-famous, heavily trodden landmark has withstood many heydays, through its bankruptcy and closing between 1974 or 1975 (sources vary as to which year it actually closed, suggesting a protracted process of closure) to its much-lauded reopening in 1984. Along that trajectory toward “rebirth,” there were just as many, if not more, days of disrepair and neglect. Over the years, the Apollo Theater has showcased talent from Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald, to dance headliners, to bebop acts and big bands, to the more recent musical, hip hop and comedy stars, to enduring events such as “Amateur Night at the Apollo” and iconic series such as “Showtime at the Apollo.” Nonetheless, that political simmer has persisted between the cultural plenitude. The references that follow demonstrate this, covering a range of historical, political, archival, and cultural documentation. In the early twenty-first century, restorative fervor is on the rise yet again, as the Apollo organization has embarked on a massive online archival project aiming to document its many historic intersections across the past one hundred years. In addition, numerous other restorative projects designed to underscore the Apollo Theater’s vast significance appear throughout these entries, the categories of which suggest that the Apollo is perhaps best documented as an intersectional landmark.

General Overviews

The term “historic landmark” connotes a vast significance; yet landmarks can be delimited by an iconicity rooted in time, geographic location, and utility such that the enormity and multifariousness of their labors across time and space can be missed. The Apollo Theater exemplifies this enormity. The categories that follow attempt to thematically organize monographs, reviews, analyses, and archival documents that attest to the inextricability of culture from politics, and vice versa; and to emphasize the historical significance of both, where black life, its unique challenges, and the cultural and political gestures of resistance and perseverance are concerned. This is to say, the Apollo Theater, as an intersectional locus of history, culture, and socio-politics is, in a sense, uncategorizable and remains in need of even more scholarly engagement alongside the archiving and chronicling of its innumerable stagings. The ensemble of texts in this General Overviews section exemplifies this. Baker 2002, a review of James Brown’s performance at the Apollo Theater memorializing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination thirty-four years before, coalesces soul music, history, political activism, and critique of that which violently refuses black activism, on the Apollo stage. Kinloch 2007 chronicles two Harlem youths’ struggles toward self-definition, their observations about the claiming of Harlem’s treasured landmark by non-blacks who are steadily migrating there, and the corresponding rise of ticket costs for the Apollo Theater’s events. Hoffman 2003 examines diversity-as-industry, underscoring the observations of the youth in Kinloch’s project. Thomas 1997 highlights the Apollo Theater as an educational resource for the neighborhood youth enrolled in programs at the nearby National Black Theater, suggesting the ways in which positive relations between neighborhood venues support youth in the Harlem community. Noel 1998 outlines plans to expand and refurbish the Apollo Theater, while Block 2001 looks back three years at the troubled road toward that refurbishment, which remains incomplete. Carlin and Conwill 2010 celebrates the Apollo Theater at seventy-five with an array of artistic achievement, suggesting the staying power of the artists and the landmark, amid persistent economic difficulties and the repetition of black displacement that is rampant at the time of the book’s publication. Pryce 2013 documents an event bringing cultural accomplishment and political engagement together. The entries in the Event Reviews section echo these illuminations.

  • Baker, John. “The Godfather of Soul and the Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Television Quarterly 33.1 (2002): 44–52.

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    This review chronicles a live event conceived of and performed by James Brown at the Apollo Theater, in response to King’s assassination. It was produced in conjunction with Metromedia’s WNEW Channel 5 in New York City and narrated by John Baker, who served as assistant program manager at the time.

    Baker, John. “The Godfather of Soul and the Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Television Quarterly 33.1 (2002): 44–52.

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  • Block, Valerie. “It’s Showtime at the Apollo; Theater near Deal on Huge Expansion; Calling Tina Brown.” Crain’s New York Business 17 (2001): 3.

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    Utilizing a three-act play structure conceit, this article provides an update on the plans to expand the landmark by way of purchasing a neighboring venue (the Victoria Theater) and outlines the difficulties, legal and otherwise, of the project’s completion, dating back to 1998.

    Block, Valerie. “It’s Showtime at the Apollo; Theater near Deal on Huge Expansion; Calling Tina Brown.” Crain’s New York Business 17 (2001): 3.

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  • Carlin, Richard, and Kinsasha Holman Conwill. Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 2010.

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    In conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution and the Apollo Theater Foundation, this book, a companion piece to the exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, boasts an array of writers reflecting on the breadth of black talent in a context of social, cultural, and political reflection in honor of the Apollo Theater’s seventy-fifth anniversary.

    Carlin, Richard, and Kinsasha Holman Conwill. Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 2010.

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  • Hoffman, Lily M. “The Marketing of Diversity in the Inner City: Tourism and Regulation in Harlem.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27.2 (2003): 286–299.

    DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.00448Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the industry of tourism and its impact on the racially and economically disenfranchised in Harlem, and underscores the significant external forces that factor in the volatile health of Harlem residents across the years; not least, the numerous on-again, off-again plans to refurbish the neighborhood’s landmark cultural beacon, the Apollo Theater.

    Hoffman, Lily M. “The Marketing of Diversity in the Inner City: Tourism and Regulation in Harlem.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27.2 (2003): 286–299.

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  • Kinloch, Valerie. “Youth Representations of Community, Art, and Struggle in Harlem.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 116 (2007): 37–49.

    DOI: 10.1002/ace.275Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the midst of this article’s analysis of intergenerational learning, the two black young adults at the center of its study, Quentin and Kavon, share their observations about the ramifications of community revitalization. They cite the Apollo Theater’s refurbishment as a barometer for the encroaching racial and economic displacement of Harlem’s residents, symptomatic of which are prohibitive ticket costs and the symbolic claiming of the cultural landmark by Harlem’s neo-settlers.

    Kinloch, Valerie. “Youth Representations of Community, Art, and Struggle in Harlem.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 116 (2007): 37–49.

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  • Noel, Peter. “Art of the Deal.” The Village Voice 43.25 (1998).

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    Noel provides an historical context for the Apollo Theater and outlines the various prospective players in the projected revitalization of the venue, including its institutional infrastructure, prospective additions to its executive board, and possible corporate investors.

    Noel, Peter. “Art of the Deal.” The Village Voice 43.25 (1998).

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  • Pryce, Vinette K. “‘Sisterhood’ R&B Vets Captivate Fans at Landmark Apollo Theater.” New York Beacon 20.24 (2013): 20.

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    This review not only critiques an event at the Apollo Theater in 2013 but also documents one of the many events at the Apollo that stage the intersection of rhythm and blues recording and political histories, including figures such as Coretta Scott King and Angela Davis, among others.

    Pryce, Vinette K. “‘Sisterhood’ R&B Vets Captivate Fans at Landmark Apollo Theater.” New York Beacon 20.24 (2013): 20.

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  • Thomas, Lundeana Marie. Barbara Ann Teer and the National Black Theatre: Transformational Forces in Harlem. New York: Garland, 1997.

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    In chapter 4 of this historical profile of one of Harlem’s most politically trenchant cultural institutions, Thomas devotes a subsection to the Apollo Theater as a crucial intra-cultural resource for the National Black Theater’s constituents, precisely because of its historical, cultural, and political significance to Harlem residents.

    Thomas, Lundeana Marie. Barbara Ann Teer and the National Black Theatre: Transformational Forces in Harlem. New York: Garland, 1997.

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Cultural and Cultural-Political Sources

The following citations constitute a sampling of the events that converge the cultural genres of music, theater, and dance with socio-political engagement at the Apollo Theater, adding to the landmark’s vast historical index. The emergent testimony implicit in some of these entries as to the persistent plight and accruing, untimely losses of and by black folks, as well as the implicit ethical questions about notions of refurbishment and community uplift, variously haunt these entries. The founding of the Apollo Theater Foundation in 1991 affirms a commitment to continued intra-community engagement. Banes 1998 chronicles “Amateur Night at the Apollo,” now itself a landmark event, through the lens of the avant-garde. Fox 1983 documents some of the lesser-known happenings behind the scenes of Showtime at the Apollo. Hooda 2010 illustrates the convergence of religion and cultural celebration by members of the Muslim community. Levy 2014 reviews the joint forging of the Apollo Theater’s Oral History Project and Columbia University around a major Harlem oral history project involving the Harlem community and its public schools. Monderson 2010, a photo essay, documents both the late pop icon Michael Jackson’s memorial and the Apollo Theater itself, where the memorial took place. Scheff 2008 succinctly and robustly annotates the cross-section of history, cultural production, and political action. Finally, Titus 2010 celebrates the outstanding cultural achievements documented along Harlem’s Walk of Fame.

  • The Apollo Theater Foundation.

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    The Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc., founded in 1991, is a non-profit organization that coordinates the various educational, cultural, and entertainment programming for the Apollo Theater. Also based in Harlem, New York, it allies with various corporations to support the continuation of its programming at the venue and throughout the Harlem community.

    The Apollo Theater Foundation.

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  • Banes, Sally. Subversive Expectations: Performance Art and Paratheater in New York, 1976–85. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998.

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    Banes devotes a chapter of this exhaustive collection on the Avant Garde, to “Amateur Night at the Apollo,” situating herself amidst the Apollo audience and cataloguing the experience as a cultural event in which she was a visitor. The chapter, entitled, “What Becomes a Legend Most?” also provides an historical context for the Apollo Theater.

    Banes, Sally. Subversive Expectations: Performance Art and Paratheater in New York, 1976–85. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998.

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  • Fox, Ted. Showtime at the Apollo. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983.

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    This collection of anecdotes, interviews, and rare photographs documents some of the little-known behind-the-scenes history of many of the memorable artists who have performed at the Apollo Theater.

    Fox, Ted. Showtime at the Apollo. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983.

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  • Hooda, Samreen. “American Muslim Identity Resurfaces at New York’s Apollo Theater.” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 29.3 (2010): 44–45.

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    Hooda documents the IMAN event, which situates the landmark as a site for Muslim Americans to synthesize faith, cultural belonging, and artistic expression into a shared identity empowered by peaceful, yet unflinching political activism.

    Hooda, Samreen. “American Muslim Identity Resurfaces at New York’s Apollo Theater.” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 29.3 (2010): 44–45.

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  • Levy, James Anders. “Apollo Theater Oral History Project and the Apollo Theater Oral History Project at C.S. 154. Harlem Apollo Theater and Columbia University Center for Oral History Center, 2008–Present.” Oral History Review 41.1 (2014): 134–136.

    DOI: 10.1093/ohr/ohu015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This review lauds the ambitious collaboration between the Apollo Theater and Columbia University to inaugurate the Oral History Project, the aim of which is to not only celebrate the historic venue but also Harlem, black history, and blacks’ achievements. The project will take place at the Apollo Theater as well as in various Harlem-based public schools.

    Levy, James Anders. “Apollo Theater Oral History Project and the Apollo Theater Oral History Project at C.S. 154. Harlem Apollo Theater and Columbia University Center for Oral History Center, 2008–Present.” Oral History Review 41.1 (2014): 134–136.

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  • Monderson, Frederick. Michael Jackson: The Apollo Memorial. Brooklyn, NY: SuMon, 2010.

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    This largely photographic essay documents the historic event memorializing the late pop icon, Michael Jackson, melding two historic, incalculable entertainment “monuments.”

    Monderson, Frederick. Michael Jackson: The Apollo Memorial. Brooklyn, NY: SuMon, 2010.

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  • Scheff, Jonathan. “The Apollo Theater.” In New York City Icons: 50 Classic Slices of the Big Apple. By Jonathan Scheff, 80–81. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2008.

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    This snapshot neatly annotates the Apollo Theater’s history, replete with the palpable haunting of racial segregation. It also catalogues an impressive entertainment roster, past and present, illustrating the venue’s staying power as a dynamic intersectional and cross-temporal locus.

    Scheff, Jonathan. “The Apollo Theater.” In New York City Icons: 50 Classic Slices of the Big Apple. By Jonathan Scheff, 80–81. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2008.

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  • Titus, Christa. “The Apollo Theater Unveiled Its Apollo Legends Walk of Fame May 10 on New York’s 125th Street to Honor Icons Whose Histories Are Closely Tied with the Famed Venue.” Billboard: The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment 122.20 (2010): 50.

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    This Billboard write-up announces the Spring 2010 unveiling of the stretch of 125th Street that will henceforth memorialize those who have appeared at the landmark.

    Titus, Christa. “The Apollo Theater Unveiled Its Apollo Legends Walk of Fame May 10 on New York’s 125th Street to Honor Icons Whose Histories Are Closely Tied with the Famed Venue.” Billboard: The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment 122.20 (2010): 50.

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Historical, Historico-Cultural, and Historico-Political Sources

These entries document particular people or benchmarks along a timeline, and reflect the cultural distinction and significance of specific historical events. They also represent crucial and, at times, rife intersections of culture and politics across these timelines. Cruse 2005 updates the author’s original 1967 chronicle that refreshes the Apollo as a locus of political conflict in Harlem, while Gates 2013 devotes a chapter to the Apollo as political and cultural intersection. Jaynes 2005 is an historic encyclopedic entry that encapsulates the Apollo’s rich cultural history. Roberts 2013 draws a compelling connection between Harlem’s Apollo Theater and Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater. Schiffman 1971 and Schiffman 1984 provide photographic, narrative, and somewhat autobiographical reflections on the early days of the Apollo Theater during the time of the elder Schiffman’s ownership of the venue. Smith 2014 also surveys the landmark as an intersectional locus of culture and politics, while Hoodenpyle 2011 documents the nascent careers of many of the Apollo’s notables. Williams 1991 situates the author’s recollection of a student’s relaying to her Tawana Brawley’s attendance at a “Showtime at the Apollo” event, facilitating a comprehensive analysis of spectacularized violence. Wintz and Finkelman 2004 provides a well-rounded encyclopedic entry of the Apollo’s cultural luminaries to round out this section.

  • Cruse, Harold. The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership. New York: New York Review of Books, 2005.

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    Cruse reflects on how black cultural and intellectual burgeoning in Harlem, spanning the turn of the twentieth century up to the late 1960s, is complicated by their cultural and political divisions. Specifically, he situates the Apollo Theater as a locus of conflict between those employed by its owners and those who are alleged to be under the influence of Communism. See pp. 15–17, 71, and 77. Originally published 1967.

    Cruse, Harold. The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership. New York: New York Review of Books, 2005.

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  • Gates, Henry Louis. Life upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513–2008. New York: Knopf, 2013.

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    In chapter 12 (titled “Growing Authority, 1928–1939”) of this ambitious historical chronicle, Gates situates the Apollo Theater as a nexus of political and cultural foment during the rife period spanning the Great Depression and the period prior to the breakout of the Second World War II.

    Gates, Henry Louis. Life upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513–2008. New York: Knopf, 2013.

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  • Hoodenpyle, Morgan. “Apollo Theater.” Icons of Black America: Breaking Barriers and Crossing Boundaries. Vol. 1. Edited by Matthew C. Whitaker, 23–32. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2011.

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    This survey of significant benchmarks in African-American history devotes a ten-page chapter to the Apollo Theater, documenting its numerous owners, performers, and historic entertainment programming; “Amateur Night at the Apollo” featuring given notables such as Ella Fitzgerald, among many others.

    Hoodenpyle, Morgan. “Apollo Theater.” Icons of Black America: Breaking Barriers and Crossing Boundaries. Vol. 1. Edited by Matthew C. Whitaker, 23–32. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2011.

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  • Jaynes, Gerald, ed. The Encyclopedia of African American Society. 2 vols. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2005

    DOI: 10.4135/9781412952507Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This two-volume reference provides a succinct historical entry on the Apollo Theater, tracing its ownership changes and highlighting some of the notable talent that appeared there, through the 1990s. See pp. 51, 52, 334.

    Jaynes, Gerald, ed. The Encyclopedia of African American Society. 2 vols. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2005

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  • Roberts, Kimberly C. Joy Ride: The Stars and Stories of Philly’s Historic Uptown Theatre. Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2013.

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    An historical chronicle of Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater, and the rhythm and blues scene that unfurled in and around it, this book also chronicles trips to Harlem by various of the Philadelphia residents who are interviewed, rendering as inextricable the landmark at the center of the Harlem community, and the Uptown Theater landmark at the center of Philadelphia’s black community.

    Roberts, Kimberly C. Joy Ride: The Stars and Stories of Philly’s Historic Uptown Theatre. Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2013.

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  • Schiffman, Jack. Uptown: The Story of Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. New York: Cowles, 1971.

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    In this older narrative chronicle, Schiffman elaborates the history of the Apollo Theater and describes its nascent years, illustrious roster of performers, and surrounding Harlem neighborhood.

    Schiffman, Jack. Uptown: The Story of Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. New York: Cowles, 1971.

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  • Schiffman, Jack. Harlem Heyday: A Pictorial History of Modern Black Show Business and the Apollo Theatre. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1984.

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    This pictorial biography, by the son of Frank Schiffman, one of the notable real estate moguls who owned the venue after Sidney Cohen, reads like a photo album/memoir, and depicts the Apollo Theater as it was making its transition from burlesque house to music entertainment landmark.

    Schiffman, Jack. Harlem Heyday: A Pictorial History of Modern Black Show Business and the Apollo Theatre. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1984.

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  • Smith, Jesse Carney. The Handy African American Answer Book. Detroit: Visible Ink, 2014.

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    This book serves as an accessible survey of African-American history, politics, and culture and situates the Apollo Theater as a landmark of intersectional significance.

    Smith, Jesse Carney. The Handy African American Answer Book. Detroit: Visible Ink, 2014.

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  • Williams, Patricia J. The Alchemy of Race and Rights. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

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    This book examines the condition of blackness in relation to law and society, devoting a chapter to the infamous upstate New York Tawana Brawley case. Williams recalls a student’s conveyance of Brawley attending a comedy show at the Apollo Theater and laughing in response to the comic’s public ridicule of her (see pp. 177). This casts the landmark as a site for the spectacle of internalized hatred around an already bizarrely sensationalized case.

    Williams, Patricia J. The Alchemy of Race and Rights. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

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  • Wintz, Cary D., and Paul Finkelman, eds. The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. Vol. 1, A–J, New York: Routledge, 2004.

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    The Apollo Theater is featured in a well-rounded historical capsule about the landmark’s history, replete with a roster of luminaries who performed and/or appeared there.

    Wintz, Cary D., and Paul Finkelman, eds. The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. Vol. 1, A–J, New York: Routledge, 2004.

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Landmark and Architecture at the Intersection of Law, Politics, and Culture

This section features sources that document the landmark in its sundry states of transformation or stagnation, situating it as a site for political debate around deeply entrenched racism, and as one at which real estate politics and its racial inflections directly impact Harlem residents. Connolly and Allen 2000 and Johnson 2010 document the political debate between presidential hopefuls Al Gore and Bill Bradley, which traversed racial profiling specifically, and racism more broadly. Horton 2005 situates the Apollo Theater in the eye of white flight and black economic disaffection. Montagne 1984, an audio book, celebrates the historic reopening of the venue and its repositioning as lauded landmark, again placing in relief the unrelenting tension between the truth of entrenched displacement and the hope of redemption from alienation. Van Hoogstraten 1997 closes this section with an architectural chronicle illuminating the structural symptoms of the landmark’s mercurial history.

Event Reviews

The following sources span a range of events, from benefits to more spectacular happenings. The subtler implications embedded in many of these events—the presence of economic distress and death, premature or otherwise—provide a compelling backdrop to the celebratory and community-supporting events. They also prompt a meditation on the irreconcilable tensions between the abundant artistic capabilities of those who have appeared on the Apollo stage and the structural incapacitation warranting the array of benefit concerts to which many of them lend their talents.

Music

The impossibility to document sufficiently the innumerabe musical acts and events that have appeared on the Apollo stage is of a piece with the difficulty to categorize them. In other words, each category in one way or another spills over into the others. Nonetheless, these entries convey an astronomical breadth of musical talent. “The Apollo Celebrates Black Music Month” 2005 profiles the iconoclastic Neville Brothers. “Apollo Theater Foundation Celebrates Black Music Month” 2003 celebrates a range of talent, from the legendary Smokey Robinson to events showcasing new talent. Harvilla 2009 reviews a “Showtime at the Apollo” event paying tribute to Michael Jackson. Hentoff 2003 celebrates a jazz benefit concert raising funds for jazz musicians who have fallen on hard times. Engadget 2015 highlights one of a growing number of spectacular holographic events, this one featuring Billie Holiday. “The Legendary O’Jays at the Apollo Theater” 2005 lauds the legendary O’Jays. Ouellette 2006 reviews a benefit concert to raise funds for New Orleans musicians impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Rogers 2003 documents a benefit concert featuring an array of hip hop luminaries. Waddell 2001 concludes this section with a chronicle of “Latin Nights at the Apollo” and the rise of Latin residents and music in Harlem.

  • “The Apollo Celebrates Black Music Month with the Neville Brothers and Living Colour Live at World Famous Apollo Theater.” New Voice of New York 47.49 (2005): 12.

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    This profile-review celebrates the staying power of the eclectic Neville Brothers, attributing their longevity and industry popularity to “their original sound, social commentary and universal messages,” (p. 12) earning them the spotlight on the Apollo Theater’s main stage for its Black Music Month celebration.

    “The Apollo Celebrates Black Music Month with the Neville Brothers and Living Colour Live at World Famous Apollo Theater.” New Voice of New York 47.49 (2005): 12.

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  • “Apollo Theater Foundation Celebrates Black Music Month.” New Voice of New York 45.9 (2003): 17.

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    This announcement celebrates an array of events on the Apollo Theater stage, from legendary headliner Smokey Robinson, to a Spiritfest concert, to Amateur Night’s “Top Dog” competition finale.

    “Apollo Theater Foundation Celebrates Black Music Month.” New Voice of New York 45.9 (2003): 17.

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  • Billie Holiday’s Hologram Is Slated to Play the Apollo Theater.” Engadget (9 September 2015).

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    This latest posthumous holographic performance is one in a series of many notables, including Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, and Selena, and is part of a larger ongoing project for the Apollo Theater, which the anonymous blog writer hails as the promise of celebrating the enduring legacies of great performers who have passed on.

    Billie Holiday’s Hologram Is Slated to Play the Apollo Theater.” Engadget (9 September 2015).

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  • Harvilla, R. “Down in Front: The Moonwalk as Survival Mechanism.” The Village Voice 54.28 (2009): 49.

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    Harvilla reviews a July 2009 tribute to the late Michael Jackson during Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in New York City, highlighting a key moment during which the contestants all performed Jackson’s signature “moonwalk” to calm the very active crowd.

    Harvilla, R. “Down in Front: The Moonwalk as Survival Mechanism.” The Village Voice 54.28 (2009): 49.

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  • Hentoff, Nat. “Another Great Night in Harlem: Bringing Life Back to the Living.” The Village Voice 48.40 (2003): 22.

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    Hentoff reviews this second annual benefit concert at the Apollo Theater, produced by the Jazz Foundation of America, on behalf of jazz musicians who need financial support. Hentoff emphasizes the significance of jazz and the import of this event in raising monies to support jazz musicians who have given of their talents across the years.

    Hentoff, Nat. “Another Great Night in Harlem: Bringing Life Back to the Living.” The Village Voice 48.40 (2003): 22.

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  • “The Legendary O’Jays at the Apollo Theater: First NY Concert in 5 years.” New Voice of New York 47.37 (2005): 13.

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    This review of the return of the legendary trio, comprised of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, and Eric Nolan Grant, lauds the staying power of the group and the cultural and historical import of their return to the landmark.

    “The Legendary O’Jays at the Apollo Theater: First NY Concert in 5 years.” New Voice of New York 47.37 (2005): 13.

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  • Ouellette, Dan. “Music: Jazz Notes: Nola Comes to Harlem.” Billboard: The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment 118.22 (2006): 58.

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    Ouellette reviews this benefit concert for the Jazz Foundation of America, produced to raise money for New Orleans musicians impacted by Hurricane Katrina the previous year. The review highlights key moments and musicians in the course of the evening.

    Ouellette, Dan. “Music: Jazz Notes: Nola Comes to Harlem.” Billboard: The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment 118.22 (2006): 58.

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  • Rogers, Matt. “Hip-Hop Unity Fest at Apollo Theater.” New York Amsterdam News (2003): 43.

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    This review documents a high-profile fundraiser for the fourth annual New York City Hip-Hop Festival and features an assortment of entertainers from the hip-hop world, including Kanye West, Common, and the Roots.

    Rogers, Matt. “Hip-Hop Unity Fest at Apollo Theater.” New York Amsterdam News (2003): 43.

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  • Waddell, Ray. “Blades Opens Latin Series at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre.” Billboard: The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment 113.18 (2001): 8.

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    Waddell reviews the “Latin Nites at the Apollo” concert series, produced by the president of Panorama Presentations, Larry Stein, and featuring Rubén Blades, with whom Waddell speaks about the significant presence of Latin Americans in Harlem and about the increasing radio presence of Latin music.

    Waddell, Ray. “Blades Opens Latin Series at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre.” Billboard: The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment 113.18 (2001): 8.

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Theater, Musical Theater, and Dance

This section covers a range of theater, musical theater, and dance theater performances at the Apollo Theater, all of which exemplify the commemorative interchanges between the Apollo and other legendary landmark institutions and organizations. Dance Magazine (“Ailey II, Directed by Sylvia Waters” 2005) reviews a thirtieth anniversary celebratory performance of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s Second Company, Ailey II. Feingold 2009 lauds a revival of the highly successful Broadway musical, Dreamgirls. Grode 2003 and Horwitz 2003 each provide vantages on the unique collaboration between Columbia University and the Royal Shakespeare Company of Salman Rushdie’s novel, Midnight’s Children. Johnson 2002, Keilson 2002, and Shandell 2003 provide reviews of George C. Wolfe’s Harlem Song. Parkerson, et al. 1987 documents the sole female performer, Stormé DeLarverié, in the Apollo’s Jewel Box Review drag show. Schulman 2004 ends this section with a review of American Ballet Theatre’s “Dance Arriba!”

  • “Ailey II, Directed by Sylvia Waters, Celebrated Its 30th Anniversary at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.” Dance Magazine 79.7 (2005): 57.

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    Amidst an industry update of personnel shifts and changes throughout the dance world, this write-up situates the Apollo Theater as the stage for the thirtieth anniversary of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s second company, Ailey II, melding the legacy of the late, black dance icon with that of the Apollo stage.

    “Ailey II, Directed by Sylvia Waters, Celebrated Its 30th Anniversary at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.” Dance Magazine 79.7 (2005): 57.

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  • Feingold, Michael. Review: “Dreamgirls.” The Village Voice 54.49 (2009): 27.

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    Feingold reviews a revival of the long-running Broadway musical, Dreamgirls, by Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger, directed by Robert Longbottom at the Apollo Theater.

    Feingold, Michael. Review: “Dreamgirls.” The Village Voice 54.49 (2009): 27.

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  • Grode, Eric. “Reviews: Theatre: ‘Midnight’s Children.’” Back Stage: the Performing Arts Weekly 44.13 (2003): 53.

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    This write-up announces the unique collaborative event between Columbia University and the Royal Shakespeare Company: a dramatic adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel, Midnight’s Children, by Rushdie, Simon Reade, and Tim Supple with direction by Supple, at the Apollo Theater in New York City from 21–30 March 2003.

    Grode, Eric. “Reviews: Theatre: ‘Midnight’s Children.’” Back Stage: the Performing Arts Weekly 44.13 (2003): 53.

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  • Horwitz, Simi. “In Focus: Searching the Depths of Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children.’” Back Stage: The Performing Arts Weekly 44.14 (2003): 3–41.

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    Horowitz reviews a stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The event was the highlight of Columbia University’s multivenue Humanities Festival.

    Horwitz, Simi. “In Focus: Searching the Depths of Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children.’” Back Stage: The Performing Arts Weekly 44.14 (2003): 3–41.

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  • Johnson, David Barbour. “Drop Me Off in Harlem: Summertime Blues.” Entertainment Design: The Art and Technology of Show Business 36.11 (2002): 14–16.

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    The Apollo Theater provides the stage for George C. Wolfe’s Harlem Song, a musical that maps Harlem’s history. This interview documents costume designer Paul Tazewell’s collaboration with Wolfe and features sketches of Tazewell’s designs.

    Johnson, David Barbour. “Drop Me Off in Harlem: Summertime Blues.” Entertainment Design: The Art and Technology of Show Business 36.11 (2002): 14–16.

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  • Keilson, Kenneth P. “Langston Hughes Scores in Brilliant ‘Harlem Song’ at the Apollo Theater.” New Voice of New York 44.18 (2002): 18.

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    This ebullient review of the musical Harlem Song, directed by George C. Wolfe, situates poet, playwright, and librettist Langston Hughes, as central to the very neighborhood that his landmark poem “Harlem” emblemizes.

    Keilson, Kenneth P. “Langston Hughes Scores in Brilliant ‘Harlem Song’ at the Apollo Theater.” New Voice of New York 44.18 (2002): 18.

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  • Parkerson, Michelle, Stormé DeLarverié, Joan Nestle, and Bobbie Schiffman. Stormé: The Lady of the Jewel Box. DVD. New York: Women Make Movies, 1987.

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    This documentary chronicles the life of early male impersonator and drag performer, Stormé DeLarverié, the only female in the legendary Jewel Box Revue drag show at the Apollo Theater.

    Parkerson, Michelle, Stormé DeLarverié, Joan Nestle, and Bobbie Schiffman. Stormé: The Lady of the Jewel Box. DVD. New York: Women Make Movies, 1987.

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  • Schulman, Jennie. “Dance Diary: NYC Ballet’s Midwinter Dream.” Back Stage: The Performing Arts Weekly 45.4 (2004): 13.

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    In this collection of reviews, Schulman includes the 27 January 2004 benefit performance of “Dance Arriba!” by the American Ballet Theater and Casita Maria at the Apollo Theater, featuring contemporary and classical Latin dance.

    Schulman, Jennie. “Dance Diary: NYC Ballet’s Midwinter Dream.” Back Stage: The Performing Arts Weekly 45.4 (2004): 13.

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  • Shandell, Jonathan. “Harlem Song” [Performance Review]. Theatre Journal 55.2 (2003): 343–345.

    DOI: 10.1353/tj.2003.0083Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A production of George C. Wolfe’s musical extravaganza, Harlem Song, with original music, arrangements, and music supervision by Zane Mark and Daryl Waters, was presented at the Apollo Theater in New York City on September 9, 2002.

    Shandell, Jonathan. “Harlem Song” [Performance Review]. Theatre Journal 55.2 (2003): 343–345.

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