December 28, 2020

Learning from the Source: Amateur Night @ the Apollo Race Relations

Read an oral history excerpt or the full oral history account by an audience member who attended amateur night at the Apollo Theater in November, 1938.

African Americans and a few whites crowded the [Apollo] theater to enjoy–and mock–amateur musicians. In this account from American Life Histories, 1936-1940, Federal Writer Dorothy West describes an event that happened [there]. What does this event suggest about race relations in the late 1930s? What is West’s view of the actions of the audience and the emcee? What would you have done if you were the emcee? In the audience?

What can students glean from this account? How do they think it compares to a modern-day amateur night at the Apollo (note: video on YouTube)? What has changed? Has anything stayed the same?

Don’t miss this extensive list of African American History & Culture resources from the Library of Congress and these Harlem Renaissance resources.

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