The African American Theatre Directory, 1816-1960 is a comprehensive reference book that includes succinct information on some 500 pioneer African American theatrical organizations, companies, and performing groups, plus more than 200 black-oriented or black-controlled theatres, halls, and performance spaces, that were active in the United States from the second decade of the nineteenth century to the dawn of the revolutionary black theatre movement of the 1960s. These 700 organizations and theatres have had an important place in the history of African American theatricals during the 145 years covered by this directory. This information has hitherto been scattered throughout a number of different sources, largely unavailable to the general reader, including library drama and theatre collections, reference books, dissertations and theses, programs and scrapbooks, newpaper and periodical reviews, theatrical directories, and memoirs and histories.
Much of the progress that African Americans have made in the American theatre in the last two centuries has been due to the pioneering efforts of these early black theatrical organizations, companies, troupes, and theatres, which provided black performers and showpeople with the opportunity (1) to learn and perfect the arts and crafts of the theatre, (2) to perform in shows, musicals, and dramas of the highest quality, playing a variety of parts that they would not otherwise have had the opportunity to play, and (3) to present these shows and theatricals to a wide audience both in the United States and abroad. Moreover, these organizations provided economic support for their constituents and helped to pave the way for individual artists during an era when racial hostilities and prejudice made it difficult for the black performer to succeed alone.
This directory includes not only all of the well-known theatrical organizations that one would expect to find in such a volume, but scores of groups that were