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Apollo Theater: History behind Harlem’s entertainment Mecca

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HARLEM, Manhattan — Harlem is changing but one thing stays the same, the Apollo Theater.

Before there was Star Search, American Idol and the Voice, there was and still the Apollo.

The world famous theater is the heartbeat of Harlem. Part tourist attraction and part history museum, the theaters archive more than 80 years of culture and entertainment.

Before becoming the center of black music and culture, the Apollo was known as the burlesque house built at the height of segregation. In 1914, African Americans were not allowed inside the building.

The new owners of the Apollo wanted to take advantage of the growing black population. It became the first theater in New York to showcase acts featuring black entertainers.

Those acts attracted big crowds until the late 1970s when the Apollo shutdown. In 1981, local political and businessman Percy Sutton purchased the theater and re-opened the new and improved Apollo.

The Apollo gained landmark status in 1991 and it continues to be an entertainment Mecca.