African-American Contribution to Culture (03:17)
A cast member reads a piece about police violence against African-Americans. See footage of performers at the Apollo Theater over the decades.
Touring the Apollo (02:05)
Historian Billy Mitchell takes women from New Orleans around the building during a rehearsal for Ella Fitzgerald's 100th birthday celebration.
Apollo Theater Origins (04:40)
A performer sings "Judy," Fitzgerald's prize-winning song from amateur night in 1934; learn about the Tree of Hope legend. Lafayette Theater operator Frank Schiffman eliminated Harlem competition. The Apollo was among the few non-segregated theaters in 1934.
Harlem Jazz (02:22)
Jazz was the most popular music in the 1930s. The Apollo was the only place for African-American bands to launch their careers. Talent scout Ralph Cooper created amateur night.
"Strange Fruit" Controversy (02:52)
Despite Schiffman's reservations, the Apollo was a safe place for Billie Holiday to perform the protest song. See Schiffman's notes on performances and revenue.
Growing Up at the Apollo (03:05)
Leslie Uggams recalls performing from age nine, including working with Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Dinah Armstrong. Performances included films, tap dance, comedy, and music.
Apollo Theater Future (04:39)
Board members share ideas for new programming. Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes works with actors on creating a stage version of "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates wrote letters to his son about growing up African-American in today's society.
Apollo Amateur Night (04:34)
Audience members readily boo amateur performers. Professionals recall the experience as a rite of passage in their career. Regular attendee Eva Isaac recalls convincing stage hand Joseph Gray to sing; he has performed every week since.
Apollo Amateur Night Auditions (05:15)
Bianca Graham has traveled from Cincinnati to New York City to pursue her dream and remember a friend killed by the police. The audience gives her a standing ovation. Cooper discusses creating amateur night in an archive interview.
Eartha Kitt (02:13)
Big names in African-American entertainment only played white venues. Bobby Schiffman recalls convincing Kitt to perform at the Apollo; community members were upset when she married a white man but supported her performance.
Prejudice and Discrimination (03:45)
Schiffman brought in drag show Jewel Box Revue in the 1950s; there was a backlash from black community members. Several Harlem businesses banned African-Americans until the 1950s. Actors read excerpts from Coates' "Between the World and Me" about black history.
James Brown (02:20)
Harlem community members from all walks of life attended Brown's performances. His album "Live at the Apollo" went mainstream. Schiffman opened large acts on days when welfare checks were distributed.
Motown Revue (04:06)
Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Martha and the Vandellas, the Temptations, the Four Tops, and 12-year-old Stevie Wonder performed together. Mary Wilson recalls being frightened of the Apollo audience. Robinson recalls Ray Charles helping him with musical arrangements.
Apollo Theater "University" (01:50)
Newer musicians learned from more experienced ones backstage. Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle recall a competitive but supportive community.
Influencing Mainstream Music (03:18)
Savion Glover talks about his tap idols Honi Coles, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Gregory Hines. Apollo acts like the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout" inspired Paul McCartney. The Beatles later brought the song to larger audiences.
Dealing with Segregation (03:07)
LaBelle and Robinson recall discrimination and harsh conditions while touring in the South. African-American artists felt relief upon returning to the Apollo and the Harlem community. See footage of Aretha Franklin's homecoming performance.
Groundbreaking Comedy (03:40)
Franklin, Uggams and Knight recall playing four or five shows daily when they started at the Apollo. Redd Foxx, Dick Gregory, and Richard Pryor did not cater to the mainstream but addressed the African-American struggle.
Staging a Theatrical Version of "Between the World and Me" (02:53)
Actors, composers and musicians work on Coates' book on discrimination and violence against the African-American community. They discuss the psychological impacts of being a black male in America.
1964 Harlem Riots (03:56)
See footage of community members protesting the police killing of James Powell. Residents protected the Apollo from looting. Actors discuss teaching Malcolm X's ideas to younger generations.
Black Power Movement (03:52)
See footage of African-American communities rioting after Malcolm X and Dr. King's assassinations. Brown and presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm became inspirational figures, popularizing the phrase "black and proud."
Harlem's Decline (04:15)
By the 1970s, the mainstream economy had shifted to the suburbs; drugs and poverty plagued urban areas. Knight demanded fair pay for a 1975 show. The Apollo struggled to survive and went into bankruptcy in 1977.
Reviving the Apollo (04:05)
Civil rights attorney Percy Sutton bought the theater as part of a 125th street revitalization project. After renovations, community members celebrated its reopening as a symbol of Harlem. See footage of its 1985 fiftieth anniversary gala.
Showtime at the Apollo (02:38)
Sutton showcased R&B and rap acts that were not getting mainstream media coverage. Early hip hop artists inspired a new generation of writers and musicians. Doug E. Fresh demonstrates beat boxing rhythms.
Transitioning to a Non-Profit (01:58)
Despite sold-out shows, the Apollo's limited seating made the theater commercially nonviable. Sutton arranged for the city to take it over as a cultural institution.
In Memory (03:02)
Harlem community members gather to remember Apollo Theater icons, including Franklin, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston. See footage of Brown's funeral procession and service in 2006.
Obama at the Apollo (01:58)
See footage of the president's speech to Harlem community members. He sings a few words of a Marvin Gaye song, capturing the audience's support.
"Between the World and Me" Opening Night (06:03)
Coates thanks cast members for helping remember his childhood friend Prince, shot by the police. See excerpts of the staged version of letters to his son. Participant Angela Bassett reflects on the Apollo Theater representing truth.
Continuing the Apollo Tradition (01:56)
Coates reads an excerpt from "Between the World and Me" about African-American cultural heroes. See footage of performers and Harlem community members throughout the decades.
Credits: The Apollo (06:58)
Credits: The Apollo
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