National Black Theatre

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The National Black Theatre is a non-profit cultural and educational corporation, and community-based theatre company located on 5th Avenue in Harlem, New York.


The National Black Theatre (NBT) is a non-profit cultural and educational corporation, and community-based theatre company that seeks "to produce transformational theatrical experiences that enhance African American cultural identity by telling authentic stories of the Black experience."[1] Based in the Harlem neighborhood of the New York City borough of Manhattan, NBT was founded in 1968 by actress, director, producer, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer.[2][3] Teer purchased the 8,000 square foot theatre in 1969 at 9 East 125th street. In 1982, the NBT expanded to 64,000 square foot complex that houses two theatres, classrooms, and an African and Nigerian art gallery which currently resides on 5th Avenue in Harlem.[4]

Teer founded the NBT with a goal of creating a “massive cultural and artistic movement to create people culturally literate.” Teer viewed the African-American community as one that was in desperate need of an African cultural education. The company committed itself to representing and establishing “a black theatrical standard -- a standard based on black lifestyle.”[5] The NBT produced plays that were dedicated to raising the consciousness of the African-American community by crafting a distinct departure from White theatrical conventions. As Teer wrote in a critical essay, "You cannot have a theatre without ideology, without a base from which all of the forms must emanate and call it Black, for it will be the same as Western theatre, conventional theatre, safe theatre."[6]

Notable productions performed at the NBT included Ritual, Change! Love Together! Organize! A Revival, Five on the Black Hand Side, The Believers, Softly Comes a Whirlwind, Whispering in Your Ear, and A Soul Journey into Truth.[7] Distinguished artists that have performed at the NBT include Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni.

After Teer passed away in 2008, her daughter Sade Lythcott took over as CEO and to this day continues her leadership over the theatre.[8]

Mission statement[edit]

Teer founded the National Black Theatre to “bring validation to a group suffering from the negative effects of cultural hegemony."[7] The NBT’s mission is develop new cultural leaders who will bring “dignity, autonomy, self-love, and entrepreneurial artistry into the community of who they serve.”[4] The 6 goals of the NBT are as follows:

  1. To create and perpetuate a standard of Black art,
  2. To eliminate the competitive aspects of most commercial theatre,
  3. To re-educate audiences,
  4. To restore the spirituality and cultural traditions that have been stripped from Blacks in America,
  5. To create an alternate system of values from the Western concept, and
  6. To create a Black theory of acting and liberation.[5]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Over the course of more than 300 productions, the National Black Theater has earned more than 45 AUDELCO Black Theatre Excellence Awards, and continues to be a successful institution of African-American theater.[9]

By 1986, the theatre was recognized as one of the most important arts institutions in America by President Ronald Reagan.[2][9] Former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo acknowledged The National Black Theatre as “one of New York State’s greatest cultural treasures and resources and a cornerstone for the revitalization of 125th Street."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NBT Mission and History". Retrieved 2 November 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "National Black Theatre ground breaking ceremony". New York Amsterdam News. 6 May 1989. 
  3. ^ "National Black Theatre has Action Arts Program". New York Amsterdam News. 7 Oct 1989. 
  5. ^ a b 1949-, Thomas, Lundeana Marie, (1997). Barbara Ann Teer and the National Black Theatre : transformational forces in Harlem. New York: Garland Pub. ISBN 0815329202. OCLC 37179946. 
  6. ^ Harris, Jessica B. (1972). "The Sun People of 125th Street. The National Black Theatre". The Drama Review: TDR. 16 (4): 39–45. doi:10.2307/1144752. JSTOR 1144752. 
  7. ^ a b "Memorial for Barbara Ann Teer, Founder of National Black Theatre, Set for July 28". 
  8. ^ "The Legacy of the National Black Theatre". 
  9. ^ a b "National Black Theatre". Retrieved 7 February 2015. 

External links[edit]