17. Apollo Theater (1913)
The legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem is perhaps one of the best-known sites that have empowered African Americans to showcase their art and break free from oppression. The singer James Brown, who released the album Live at the Apollo, loved the theater so much that his body was brought to the Apollo before his funeral. Music legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and many others performed at the Apollo. Additionally, artists like Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz performed at the Apollo, and even The Beatles flocked to the Apollo as soon as they arrived in NYC.
The Apollo Theater was opened in 1914 and was designed by architect George Keister, opening originally as the all-white New Burlesque Theater. It wasn’t until 1934 that it became the Apollo, a hotspot for African American pop culture and music. It became the first theater to allow a mixed-race audience and the first in New York City to hire Blacks for backstage jobs. The year the Apollo opened, Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut there during Amateur Night, winning a grand $25. Secrets of the Apollo range from its “Good Luck Stump” that entertainers rub before performing to its Wall of Autographs with names like the Obamas, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson.