Attucks Theatre History
The Attucks Theatre was the brainchild of the Twin Cities Amusement Corporation, an enterprise of black businessmen from Norfolk and Portsmouth who developed the Attucks as a regional mecca for entertainment and commerce. Their vision was to develop a cultural center in the heart of the minority community where the citizens would be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserved. The theatre was named in honor of Crispus Attucks, an African-American who the first to die in the Revolutionary War. Harvey N. Johnson, a noted African-American architect, was selected to design this facility. When it opened in grand fashion in 1919, the Attucks showcased legitimate theatre (or plays), vaudeville and movies at a price the community could afford. During its heyday a host of legendary performers graced the stage of the Attucks including Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Redd Foxx and many, many more.
Though heralded for its cultural contributions, the Attucks provided many other valued services to the community. It was a great platform for advocating social and political reform. Educationally, it served as an adjunct facility for Norfolk Public Schools, hosting poetry reading, music recitals, writing contests, graduation exercises and Black History Week exhibits. For the religious community it provided accommodations for church services and concerts. Enterprise was a major function of the complex, accommodating the offices of leading doctors, dentists, attorneys, Realtor and other professionals. During its heyday the Attucks was well utilized and loved by the community. It ceased to function as a theatre in the mid 1950′s. Today, as a state and national landmark, it is distinguished as the oldest remaining legitimate theatre in the nation that was completely financed, designed, constructed and operated by African-Americans.