For the first half of the 20th century despite segregation, D.C.’s greater U Street corridor prospered and built a self-sufficient social, civic, and cultural life. During the height of the Jim Crow era, this community birthed D.C.’s Black Cultural Renaissance known as “Black Broadway” and served as the hub of African American business and sophistication. Anchored by the famed Howard University, the neighborhood was home to Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, first-rate theaters and nightclubs that hosted the biggest stars in American jazz — Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Jelly Roll Morton, among many others. Some of the African American pioneers in science, law, education, and the arts you might have found on Black Broadway on U; the opera star, Madame Lillian Evanti, Carter G. Woodson, Dr. Charles Drew, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Mary McLeod Bethune, Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston, laying the foundation for the modern civil rights movement.
Yet, not only did this Black U Street community flourish and develop self-sufficiency; it was nationally significant for its stance against the injustices of segregation, spearheading some of the nation’s first civil rights protests while simultaneously embracing the highest standards of culture and intelligentsia experienced by blacks anywhere in America at that time, prompting the great American poet Langston Hughes to observe and write,
“Never before, anywhere had I seen such persons of influence — men with some money, women with some beauty, teachers with some education — quite so sure of their own importance and their high places in the community.” — Langston Hughes
The Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project sheds light on the social impact, historical and cultural influence of D.C.’s greater Black U Street/Shaw community once affectionately known as the “Black Broadway” (a phrase coined by the late entertainer, Pearl Bailey who jumpstarted her singing career on U Street) from the early 1900s to late 1950s.
Through the use of digital media content and narratives, this multi-platform project will connect today’s and future audiences to the “unsung” contributions of this prominent and pioneering Black Washington community’s entertainers, educators, civil rights activists, intellectuals, musicians and culturists, as well as their social impact on Black America and our nation’s historical landscape. This Transmedia experience represents several distinct, yet interconnected multi-platform (digital media and immersive) and interactive components to include: a 3-part documentary film series, an interactive website (that will house a “living, digital history book” featuring immersive user experiences, historic maps, educational resources and mini-docs showcasing the backstories of the social impact and cultural legacy of this neighborhood; its trailblazers, iconic entertainers and landmark places), mobile apps, “pop-up” performances, community outreach events and symposiums, museum and cultural arts center as well as a significant social media engagement.
During the “Roaring Twenties,” for some, life was but a Gatsby-like dream…but in the little southern town of Washington, D.C., otherwise known as “The Capital of the Free World,” it wasn’t Freedom that ruled; it was Jim Crow. As our nation’s capital was still a segregated city, African Americans were not “free” to enter “white” theaters and nightclubs. Ironically, it was this very segregation that spawned a “cultural and intellectual revolution.”
Educate target audience(s) about the important role that the African American civil rights activists, culturalists, educators, entertainers, intellectuals and entrepreneurs (all in a little Washington, D.C. neighborhood) played in shaping American history, arts and culture, as well as our society at large. Entertain with compelling historical content and immersive user experiences. Empower and promote positive cultural identity through the sharing of a majestic American history.
DISCOVER through our interactive map the CULTURE, IDENTITY, PEOPLE and LANDMARK PLACES of Black Broadway on U. This digital walking tour is an exciting, historical journey back into time when D.C.’s greater U Street community’s businesses were black owned and run; its buildings, built and financed by blacks; its entertainment, by and for blacks. By 1920, this community boasted more than 300 black businesses within a few square miles including the only first-rate hotel in Washington where blacks could stay, the first full-service black YMCA in the country and the Howard Theatre (opened with black capital two decades before Harlem’s Apollo).
It’s May 1940, and the illustrious actress/singer, Pearl Bailey (portrayed by D.C. native/actress, Roz White) is in her dressing room getting dolled-up before her performance at U Street’s historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C. Pearl shares her tale about the music filled evenings, rich culture, entertainment, heritage and heydays of D.C.’s Black Broadway on U despite the tough Jim Crow laws this community continued to strive and thrive.
HISTORIC NOTE: Ms. Bailey is credited with coining the phrase “Black Broadway on U Street” for this historic Black Washington era before Harlem and jumpstarted her singing career here too. Learn More…
Thursday, February 5, 2015: 10:30am – 1:00pm
LIVE MUSICAL! Black Broadway on U presents “Echoes of an Era” at THEARC
Black Broadway on U’s Executive Producer/Creator, Shellée Haynesworth featured on WUSA9-TV’s (CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.) Great Day Washington…
Team #BlackBroadwayonU hacks it up and creates Duke’s DC: Just Jumpin’ and Jivin’, an interactive, scavenger hunt game design…
Black Benefactors is hosting “Black Broadway on U: Echoes of An Era” Community Learning Walking Tour Luncheon for Community…
Shellée M. Haynesworth, an Emmy Award winning producer, writer, director and digital storyteller. Throughout her more than 20+-year career, she has produced, written, and developed documentaries,multicultural programs, and digital media projects for clients such as USAID, U.S. Department of Education, Smithsonian Institution, Gates Foundation, PBS, NBC, Black Entertainment Television, TV One, HBO/Time Warner, and King World Entertainment, among others.
As a documentarian and digital storyteller producer, her focus has been to examine the African Diaspora and shed light on the untold human stories and hidden contributions of African American and Latino Pathbreakers in history, arts, culture and humanities. Some of her documentary and broadcast credits include Latino Voices: Art & Culture (PBS/Smithsonian), The HistoryMakers: An Evening with Quincy Jones (PBS), Latino Music Greats (National TV Syndication), Women’s Land Rights: A Ripple Effect (USAID/Gates Foundation) and A Tribute to Madiba: Nelson Mandela Special (TV One/News One Now).
Currently, she is exploring new approaches to developing immersive (multi-platform) cinematic experiences, coding and pioneering the next-generation of the intersection for technology and digital storytelling for African-American themed content. Shellée stays true to this creative vision with her latest multi-platform endeavor, “Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project,” which highlights the under-told story of her native Washington, D.C.’s greater, historic U Street Corridor during its heyday, aka the “Black Broadway” era, when this “secret city” served as the cultural and intellectual mecca of Black America. A third-generation Washingtonian, Haynesworth is very passionate about this project that includes her family’s rich, D.C. history and heritage.
Through the years, she has been the recipient of several top industry awards and in 2013 was nominated for a local Emmy Award for The Sound: A Chuck Brown Tribute. She is an active member of the Producers Guild of America, Women in Film and Video (WIFV) and currently serves on WIFV’s Advisory Board in Washington, D.C. She is an alumnus of University of Maryland at College Park where she earned a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism.
Creative Consultant/Digital Media Strategist
A native of Washington D.C., Karen brings over 14 years of expertise in special events planning, project management, writing, and research to the Black Broadway on U team. Skilled in social media strategy and execution, her creative outlet has always been entertaining and the lively arts. She grew up learning the finer points of planning, producing and managing all sorts of affairs from small soirées to large fundraising galas. A proud Howard University alumna, she resides in the District, is an inveterate audiophile and history buff.
Vice President of Media Relations/Communications
Michelle Delino is a media strategist and communications specialist with a 25+ year career working in television and public relations in New York City and Washington, DC. A savvy publicist, producer, and talent/brand developer, Delino brings a high level of creativity and insight to multi-media projects. She works closely with clients to develop their brand identity from the inside out, assisting them in creating conscious content for TV, web, mobile and social media. Today, Delino combines her passion for PR and television programming, specializing in creating entertainment, lifestyle, health and wellness content which educates, enlightens and uplifts audiences worldwide.
Thank you for visiting Black Broadway on U! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to become a funder, supporter, content or community outreach partner; if you have any questions about the project or; if you would like for us to share your personal Black Broadway on U story. We look forward to hearing from you and will respond, shortly.