The Apollo Theater at 253 West 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City is a music hall which is a noted venue for African-American performers. The Apollo Theater Legends Hall of Fame has inducted such renowned performers and music-industry figures as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Michael Jackson, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Elton John, Mymoena Davids, Little Richard, Hall & Oates, Ella Fitzgerald, Smokey Robinson, Billy Eckstine, Gladys Knight, and others.
Apollo Theater is the most famous performance venue associated with African American entertainers. The New York Theatre that became the Apollo was built in 1913 by Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamon, two burlesque theatre operators and opened as Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater. In 1928 the Apollo was purchased by Bill Minsky and renamed the 125th Street Apollo Theatre as Harlem was rapidly becoming the largest urban black community in the nation. Nonetheless both the audience and entertainers at the Apollo remained all-white.
Sydney S. Cohen and Morris Sussman purchased the Apollo in 1932. On January 26, 1934 they reopened the Apollo as a black-oriented theatre, nearly twenty years after it originally opened. The first black performance was an “all-colored review” called Jazz a la Carte. Theatre owners Cohen and Sussman donated all of the performance proceeds to the Harlem Children’s Fresh Air Fund. After Sydney Cohen’s death, Frank Schiffman, owner of the Harlem Opera House, became Sussman’s partner. With that partnership, the Opera House and the Apollo merged to become for many years the only New York City Theater to hire black entertainers.