Impact on African American Theatre

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Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration. 

The Negro Theatre Project was started as part of the Federal Theatre Project in 1935. It established units located in different cities and regions throughout the country. These unit sites included Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, Newark, Raleigh, Durham, Birmingham, Chicago, Peoria, and Cleveland. The project provided much-needed job opportunities to African American theatre professionals and facilitated many contributions to African American arts and cultural history.

Of the Negro Theatre Project units, the New York unit, located in the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, was perhaps the most active and well known. A number of Harlem Renaissance writers, like Countee Cullen, and Arna Bontemps, found funding and new audiences for their productions through the program. White playwrights depicting African American life also staged productions through the New York unit with casts of black actors and black production teams.