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By Jerlena Rhodes

Photos by Ebonee Cochrane

Interview by Jerlena Rhodes, Angel Colon, Eudora Shackleford


Apollo Worker posting signs



The Apollo theater has been one of the many fascinating sites in Harlem. The theater has captured the attention of many tourists and has greatly increased the amount of visitors on 125th street.

A daily scene of tall two-story tourist buses can be seen in front of the theater. "People from all over the world are very amazed and entertained at the Apollo."

The Apollo Theater was founded in 1913 by the Hurtig and Seamon's New Burlesque theater. At this time, Blacks were not allowed into the theater; just like the well known Cotton Club. Skipping to the year of 1927, Ralph Cooper, Benny Carter and "16 Gorgeous Hot Steppers" drove their way into the first Black appearance.

In 1935, Count Basie and Bessie Smith played at the Apollo. Also, in 1935 Amateur Night was created at the Apollo Theater by the "Great" Ralph Cooper. Among the early winners were the talented Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald. The Apollo rapidly formed to be the most glorious showcase in entertainment history.

In 1992, the Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc. became a nonprofit organization that operates the National, State and local landmark theater. Every Wednesday night at the Apollo, talented performers are given the opportunity to compete in front of the world's most captivating audiences. Each year many groups of all ages line up to audition for the event, many make it while others are not eligible. Some are recognized for their talent while the less fortunate are booed off stage giving the current Executioner C.P.. "Crowd Pleaser" Lacey a run for his money.


Today, the endless tradition continues every Wednesday night, just like in the thirties. Contestants from all over the world come to perform. Each week there is a different celebrity host. Some of the celebrity hosts are the known Kid Capri, Doug E. Fresh, Drew Frasier, Monteria Ivey and Talent. Also each show has a different performing artist. Some of these artists are Dru Hill, Tracey Lee, Funk Master Flex and many more of our industry's artists.


The Apollo's goals are to:

  • Honor the great performers who played the Apollo.
  • Promote the cultural heritage of African Americans through live performances, recordings, television and film.
  • Educate future generations about the Apollo legacy.
  • Serve as a platform introducing new talent.



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