An iconic cultural institution with groundbreaking beginnings. Step into the remarkable history of The Howard Theatre, an iconic cultural institution nestled in the heart of Washington, DC. Since its grand opening in 1910, The Howard Theatre has been a cherished cornerstone of African American entertainment and a vibrant hub for artistic expression.
When the nation was deeply divided by segregation, The Howard Theatre provided a place where color barriers blurred and music unified.
Dubbed the “Theatre for The People” by The Washington Bee, it was the place where dignitaries like President Franklin D.
Roosevelt gathered with everyday folks to see both superstars and rising stars – many of whom debuted at The Howard Theatre.
Along with Duke Ellington, greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, Cab Calloway and Nat King Cole graced the Howard stage and made way for talents like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gilespie, The Supremes, Otis Redding, Lena Horne and James Brown.
For most of the 20th century, The Howard Theatre captivated audiences with music, dance, drama and comedy. In its early days, speakers like Booker T. Washington shared the stage with musicals, road shows, vaudeville acts, theater productions and community programs. Later, Washington’s favorite son Duke Ellington inaugurated a new era of jazz big bands on The Howard’s stage. See Quincy Jones discuss Howard Theatre here.
The Howard Theatre inspired change, yet felt the impact of a nation in flux following the 1968 riots. Eventually, the degradation of the neighborhood forced the theater to close. Sadly shuttered and neglected since the early 1980s, the once majestic building with its “trunk of soul” has survived death in order to be reborn in 2012.
Today, when walking through the Shaw neighborhood, the Howard Walk Of Fame stands proud while The Legacy of the Howard Theatre is enjoying a rebirth and is entering a new era in its long and prestigious history.
Check out todays greats on the stage where musics greats started.