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Lincoln Theater (1922)
*On this date from 1922 we celebrate the opening of the Lincoln Theater.
Located in Washington, D.C. The Lincoln Theater was the center of a cultural renaissance that predated Harlem. Washington natives Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey were joined by nationally acclaimed artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and Sarah Vaughn who performed regularly there. Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his birthday parties at the Lincoln Colonnade, a festive party hall once located at the Theater.
It was extremely important to DC's Black community because African Americans managed it. It stood in direct competition with two other neighborhood movie houses, the Republic and the Booker T, and it is the only one of the three still standing. Found on U Street between 12th and 13th Streets, the Lincoln showed off a 1,600-seat auditorium. Behind the theater, the Lincoln Colonnade, a dance hall with a tunnel entrance that hosted all the big bands of the day. Everyone had their proms there and fraternities used it for parties. The Lincoln had visits by public figures such as Ralph Bunche and poet Sterling Brown. Eleanor Roosevelt and Joe Louis visited the theater during a much-publicized March of Dimes rally.
It was purchased in 1927 by the Lincoln-Howard Corporation and, like all DC movie theatres; the Lincoln was segregated until the 1950s. But by the time the theater's white owner had passed away, the company had reorganized to include Black stockholders.