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Apollo Theater Timeline

The world famous Apollo Theater is so much more than a historic landmark - it is a source of pride and a symbol of the brilliance of American artistic accomplishment. With its rich history and continued significance, the Apollo Theater, considered the bastion of African-American culture and achievement, is one of the most fascinating chronicles in American history.

It all started in 1914 when the theater was constructed on 125th Street, the heart of Harlem. Originally, it was named Hurtig and Seamon's New Burlesque Theatre and African-Americans were not allowed in the audience. In 1934: On January 26, 1934, Ralph Cooper, Sr. Benny Carter and "16 Gorgeous Hot Steppers" dazzled the crowds with "Jazz A La Carte", the theater's first "Colored Revue." That same year, Cooper, decided to do a live version of his already popular radio show, Amateur Nite Hour at the Apollo™, at the Apollo Theater, then owned by the Schiffman family. Ella Fitzgerald, who popularized the vocal technique known as "SCAT", was one of the first Amateur Night winners. Amateur Night still remains the Apollo's most recognizable and longest running performance series.

  • Bessie Smith

Then in 1935, Bessie Smith made her Apollo debut followed by an unknown vocalist by the name of Billie Holiday who graced the Apollo stage and mesmerized the audience with her undeniable style and talent. Soon thereafter, the Apollo Theater and Amateur Night quickly became known the place "Where Stars are Born and Legends are Made"™ and "home" to thousands of major performance artists, fans, and patrons of the arts from around the world. The legendary venue has launched the careers of icons such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, James Brown and Lauryn Hill and continues to maintain its position as the nation's most popular arena for emerging and established African-American and Latino performers.

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