The American Negro Theatre (ANT), co-founded in 1940 by Frederick O’Neal and Abram Hill, was established to provide black actors, playwrights, directors and other theater professionals with the opportunity to work in productions that illustrated the diversity of black life.
For its first five years, the ANT was housed in the basement of the Schomburg Center, then the 135th Street Branch Library. The space was known as the “Harlem Library Little Theatre.” In 1945, ANT moved to the Elks Lodge on 126th Street, which was renamed the American Negro Theatre Playhouse. Finally in 1950, the ANT moved to a loft on West 125th Street, and unfortunately went out of business a year later.
Two divisions of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture have holdings related to the American Negro Theatre. The Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division has the personal papers of Frederick O’Neal, Hilda Simms and Hilda Haynes, the ANT Scrapbook and the ANT Alumni Collection. The Photographs and Prints Division has production stills and publicity photographs from the ANT. Today, the room and stage that housed the ANT still exists in the basement of the Schomburg Center. It is now a 75 seat multi-purpose room named in honor of the theatre company.