National Black Theatre Festival

National Black Theatre Festival

The National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) was founded in 1989 by Larry Leon Hamlin in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Serving as its executive director, Hamlin’s goal in creating the Festival was "to unite black theatre companies in America to ensure the survival of the genre into the next millennium".[1] Held biennially since 1989 for six days, the NBTF showcases the best in African-American theater.



As he was doing research for a magazine article in the late 1980s, Hamlin discovered a disconnect between the number of black theatre companies at that time. He concluded that a festival could serve as a method to bring these companies together, and he contacted renowned author and poet Maya Angelou for support. Together, they raised $500,000 in grants and contributions to finance the festival's operating costs.[2]

The first Festival attracted 10,000 people and offered 30 different performances by 17 of America’s best professional black theatre companies. Its theme was "An International Celebration and Reunion of Spirit". Angelou served as the Festival's first chairperson, and other prominent African-American performers lent their professional and financial support. It was covered by both the national and international media with wide acclaim.[3]


The NBTF has been successful, but not without difficulties. In 2001, the Festival faced serious financial troubles that threatened its existence. Several funding sources reduced support and the budget for the Festival was left with a $300,000 deficit. In spite of this setback, Hamlin did not cancel the festival and was able to raise enough money to compensate the loss. He believed that African-American theatre was important and was able to make his dream a success.[4]


The NBTF brings nearly 60,000 people to Winston-Salem.[5] In addition to over 100 theatrical performances, highlights of the Festival are the Opening Night Gala, the Readers' Theatre of New Works, the Youth/Celebrity Project, International Colloquia, the International Vendor's Market, a poetry slam, and various workshops and seminars. More than 50 celebrities can be expected to attend the Festival during its run.

The 2007 festival was the first without the direct guidance of Hamlin, who died on June 6, 2007; organizers continued preparations though his presence was missed.[6]

The last festival took place from August 3 - 8, 2009 with Celebrity Co-Chairs Ted Lange and Wendy Raquel Robinson. [7]

The 2011 NBTF will be held August 1 – August 6, 2011 with Celebrity Co-Chairs Lamman Rucker and T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh. [8]

Notes and references

Further reading

  • Alkalimat, Abdul (2003). The African American Experience in Cyberspace. London: Pluto Press. ISBN 9780745322223. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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