Black Broadway in the 1930s: Photos from Horse Play to Haiti to Macbeth

Below are photographs from productions of the “Negro Unit” of the Federal Theatre Project, some 30 of which were staged at Lafayette Theater in Harlem (also known as “the House Beautiful”) between 1935 and 1939. They range from all-Black productions of Shaw and Shakespeare, and a jazz version of Gilbert and Sullivan, to original, socially conscious plays about the Haiti revolution, a labor struggle, and a Black man framed for murder, to humorous fantasies and children’s shows. Click on each photograph to read the sometimes extensive captions about the players and the plays, and about the Negro unit itself, aka Negro Theatre Project, one of about a dozen throughout the country that were created as part of the Federal Theatre Project by the Works Progress Administration.

The production stills are from the New York Public Library’s newly updated Federal Theatre Project Theatre Stills collection. The posters are from the Library of Congress. (For more on the Federal Theatr Project, click here and here.)

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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