From 1940–1945 the American Negro Theatre (ANT), founded by playwright Abram Hill and actor Frederick O'Neal, was in residence in the basement of the 135th St. Library, and the original home of the Schomburg Collection. One of the goals of the ANT was to produce plays that illuminated and examined African American life and the concerns of Black people, especially the Harlem community where the company was based. The ANT is responsible for launching the careers of artists including Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Earle Hyman, William Greaves and many others. The 135th St. Library is part of the Schomburg Center complex and the performance space, which was then known as Harlem's Little Library Theatre, was named the American Negro Theatre in honor of this groundbreaking troupe. In 2015, the Schomburg Center hosted an exhibit to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the ANT in the space bears that the name of the company.
During ANT's decade long run they produced original works and revivals. The following is a select list of ANT plays, some of which were published. In some cases, the unpublished play scripts are available in manuscript form. To find the location of where a play is housed -- including Schomburg Center, Schwarzman Library or Library for the Performing Arts, or elsewhere -- please click on the play title for more information.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the American Negro Theatre (ANT), Schomburg Center staff wrote about the legacy of this company and the artists whose careers (including actor and author Alice Childress, pictured) were launched by ANT. Also included are select podcasts from the "Live From the Reading Room" series, in which correspondence (from archival collections in the Schomburgs' Manuscripts Division) written to ANT members are read aloud by Schomburg Center Staff and others. Read and listen to Posts from the 75th Anniversary of the American Negro Theatre.
In this recording from 1949, the American Negro Theatre performs the play Riders to the Sea by John Millington Synge.