In 1821, a retired West Indian ship steward, William A. Brown, founded the African Grove Theatre on Bleecker and Mercer Streets in Greenwich Village. The theatre was unique for its time, the first American company with a full ensemble of actors of color, welcoming people of all races to attend its lively productions of Shakespeare plays, musicals, pantomimes and original dramas. The African Grove served as a model of inclusion, diversity and artistic excellence in a time when racial animosity, division, and hostility were commonplace.
Black performance art flourished at the African Grove Theatre. We honor the theatre's legacy, the brilliance of its Black cast and crew, and its notable place in theatrical history through the African Grove Theatre campaign. Your gift supports the naming of a theatre at 181 Mercer Street.
181 Mercer Street will be a multi-use facility with classrooms, athletics, performance space, faculty and student housing, community space, and more. The building is expected to open in fall 2022. The named theatre will continue this performance tradition, in a place where students can express themselves, grow, and learn more about history.