Scope and arrangement
The American Negro Theatre records span the years 1940-1981 (bulk dates 1940-1949) and illustrate various aspects of ANT's mission.
ANT's constitution and by-laws, 1940, and its aims and objectives, n.d., map out a strategy to establish a permanent acting company in Harlem. The constitution describes the function of the governing body, the production staff, legal advisors, membership and trustees. Also included is an organizational chart.
A large amount of the Correspondence, 1940-1981, was generated by or to Frederick O'Neal. Authors of the letters include Abram Hill, Austin Briggs-Hall, Hattie King-Revis, Alice Childress, Bill Downer, Harry Wagstaff Gribble and Hilda Hayes. Subject of the letters include constitutional revision disputes; broken contracts; internal feuding; resignation letters from O'Neal, Donner and others; performance reviews; the discontinuation of the use of the 135th Street Branch Library building in 1945; and the subsequent demise of ANT.
Included in the Programs, 1940-1942, 1944-1946, n.d., file are flyers and programs for productions such as the critically acclaimed “On Striver's Row,” “Sojourner Truth,” “Tin Top Valley,” “The Washington Years,” “Henri Christophe,” “Natural Man,” and the popular “Anna Lucasta.” A more complete file of programs can be found in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, in the Programs and Playbills collection filed under the production's name.
The Board of Directors, 1944, 1946-1947, 1949, file contains reports, minutes, and information about the Planning Committee, 1947. ANT's Financial Records, 1945-1949, 1951, n.d., contains operating plans, production costs, membership and pledge information, invoices, a proposal for the construction of a permanent site for ANT, a list of loans made to ANT members, fiscal year reports, and other documents concerning miscellaneous administrative production expenses.
Articles, 1945-1948, 1978, n.d, features pieces and clippings about ANT's history and contain reviews of productions from the newspapers and magazines Big Red, Smith College Spectator, The New York Sun, New York World Telegram, Varietyand Rhythm Magazine.
Within the Fund Raising Campaign, 1947, file is a proposal and unsigned contract with Carter-Johnson and Associates for a fund raising campaign with notes via radio and print media.
The School of Drama, 1947-1948, n.d., file contains the school's aims and purposes. This document features courses on acting, voice and speech, body movement, directing, stage craft. Also included are notes from class.
Minutes contained within the Administrative Committee, 1949, file reveal efforts by O'Neal and other staff members to both revive and reconstruct the company. Many of those efforts were also chronicled in the minutes, notes and by-laws found in the Reorganization Committee file, 1949. The content of this file includes information about the Harlem community's lack of support, inaccurate financial records and ANT's inability to maintain organized activities.
In tandem with the Reorganization Committee, the Audience Building Committee, 1949, focused on redirecting efforts to increase sponsorship and attendance of ANT's productions as noted in minutes, letters and other materials.
The Theatre Renovations, c. 1940s, n.d., file has proposals concerning operating expenses, personnel, productions and facilities for the 135th Street Branch Library at Lenox Avenue.
The Playreading Committee, n.d., file includes reports for analysis of plays, recommended plays and evaluations of “Freedom Road,” by Dan James; “Providence and a Girl,” by Eugene Coleman; “Canaries Sometimes Sing,” by Frederick Longsdale.