Apollo’s New Oral History Archive
I spent Tuesday afternoon and evening in the World Famous Apollo Theater attending the National Urban Leagues (NUL) Economic Empowerment Tours and Town Hall Meeting moderated by Ed Gordon. I am always awestruck by the history that the Apollo holds within the confines of its walls, and I truly believe that the Apollo is one of Harlem’s greatest cultural treasures. That is why I was pleased to learn that Columbia University and the Apollo Theater Foundation will be joining forces to create an oral history of the Harlem institution.
The project will include interviews with performers, cultural figures and politicians that contributed to the success of the theater. Thirty to forty people will be interviewed as part of the project including actress Leslie Uggams and singer Smoky Robinson. Uggams began performing at the Apollo at age 7 and opened for Apollo legends that include Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington.
The Apollo is “the living legacy of the Harlem Renaissance _ an enduring beacon of hope and vitality in our times,” said Mary Marshall Clark, director of Columbia’s Oral History Research Office, which will produce the project with the foundation. The project will include an educational program for public school children.
Earlier this year, the Apollo launched the creation of an archive of historic documents, photographs and other memorabilia. Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the theater. The project is slated for completion in 2010 and will include an online component, in addition to archives that will housed at Columbia University.
“We want to document the Apollo’s legacy and its place in American popular culture and African-American history and music,” said foundation president Jonelle Procope. “It allows us to begin talking to a range of people who were connected to the Apollo and its history.”
For more information visit: Apollo Theater Foundation and Columbia’s Oral History Research Office