The Lincoln Theatre opened in 1928 with a celebration for Columbus' African American community. In the early 20th Century, segregated Columbus had a thriving African American business and entertainment district, known today as the King-Lincoln District. Because African Americans were only allowed to give and purchase goods and services with other African Americans, the district was a self-sufficient community that celebrated shared cultural heritage. James Albert “Al” Jackson and his business partner James “Ernie” Williams created, owned, and operated many businesses in King-Lincoln. The two decided to open the Lincoln Theatre (known then as the Ogden Theatre) in 1928, and according to CAPA it was developed, designed, constructed, and managed entirely by African-Americans. Interior of the theatre was designed with Egyptian Revival-style décor and its references to ancient Egyptian allusions.
The Lincoln served the King-Lincoln community for decades as a social and entertainment hub. Folks used the theatre’s ballroom for social events and gathered in the theatre to watch films, vaudeville, and jazz. The neighborhood gained a reputation for its jazz scene; many legends took to the stage at The Lincoln, including Count Basie, James Brown, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Etta James. The Lincoln was also the debut of a precocious 3-year-old Sammy Davis Jr as he toured the country with his father and uncle, who were vaudeville performers. The Lincoln closed its doors after neighborhood developments split the King-Lincoln community and many people moved to the suburbs. After decades of damage and unrealized renovations, the City of Columbus purchased the property, and many organizations and businesses pitched in to restore the theatre. Today, The Lincoln is operated by CAPA and keeps a busy performance schedule year-round. The theatre also plays a role in bringing new life to King-Lincoln and provides classes at its facilities.
Post cover photo from Nyttend via Wikimedia Commons.