The American Negro Theatre Alumni Photograph Collection was assembled by the American Negro Theater (ANT) Alumni Committee as part of a fundraising campaign which led to the renovation of ANT's original home in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Materials documenting the history of ANT were gathered for an exhibition to mark the theater's 1991 re-dedication. After the exhibition, nine former ANT members donated their photographs to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
The collection documents various ANT productions and other activities, as well as the later career pursuits of some former ANT members after the group's demise in the early 1950s.
The collection consists mainly of publicity portraits, scenes and candid shots of theatrical, political and social events. Most images are from the 1940s and 1950s with some shots taken through the early 1980s. The collection does not reflect the majority of personalities and productions associated with ANT, nor does document the donors' personal lives. Some images are unidentified. The collection is organized into nine series, representing the material given by the nine donors.
Content: Organized into nine series: I. Maxwell Glanville (194?-195?); II. William Greaves (196?-198?); III. Vickie Henderson (194?-197?); IV. Claire Leyba (194?-195?); V. Frederick O'Neal (194?-196?); VI. Meyer Rowan (194?-195?); VII. Martin Slade (196?-198?) VIII. Franklin Thomas (194?-196?); IX. Emmett "Babe" Wallace, (194?-198?).
Biographical/historical: The American Negro Theater (ANT) is considered to have been the foremost community theater organized and developed almost exclusively by African-Americans. It was established in Harlem, New York City, and was originally located in the basement of the 135th Street Branch Library of The New York Public Library, now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. ANT was founded in 1940 by playwright Abram Hill and actor Frederick O'Neal, who were disillusioned with the limited opportunities for Blacks in the theater. They created a cooperative environment that trained approximately 200 actors and technicians, introduced new playwrights, and staged over 325 performances which attracted some 50,000 patrons. According to Hill, four A.N.T. productions transferred to the commerical theater: "Anna Lucasta," "Freight," "On Striver's Row" and "Walk Hard." Other ANT activities included a high school-level school of drama, the first to be incorporated by the New York City Board of Education, and a 30-minute weekly radio series, presenting both drama and opera. Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier all began their acting careers as ANT troupe members. The company dissolved in the early 1950s.