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, culture, entertainment, rich history and heritage and heydays of D.C.’s Black Broadway on U despite the tough Jim Crow laws of the day this black community continued to strive and thrive.
HISTORIC NOTE: Ms. Bailey is credited with coining the phrase “Black Broadway” for D.C.’s historic black U Street Community and jumpstarted her singing and dancing career here, too! Learn More…
At the dawn of the “early 20th century,” 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 greater audiences about the important role of African American civil rights activists, culturalists, educators, entertainers, intellectuals and entrepreneurs (all in a little Washington, D.C. neighborhood) played in shaping American history. ENTERTAIN with compelling historical and digital content to promote positive cultural identity. EMPOWER through the sharing of “authentic” stories of these black leaders and civic places of prosperity that are part of our past and the points the way for our underserved youth’s future.
DISCOVER THE COMMUNITY: BLACK BROADWAY ON U! This interactive map is a storied 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. Through our digital walking tour you’ll discover the CHANGEMAKERS, CIVIC and CULTURAL LANDMARKS of this “great black way”, which by 1920 boasted more than 300 black businesses within a few square miles including the 12th Street Y (the first full-service black YMCA in the U.S.) and the Howard Theatre (opened with black capital 15 years before Harlem’s Apollo Theater).