Heading: Local 627 and the Early Jazz Bands
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Lincoln Theater courtesy Kansas City Museum

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Lincoln Theater

The Lincoln Theater, located at 18th and Lydia, opened in February 1920. Billed as the "theatre beautiful," the 1,500-seat Lincoln featured Paramount films accompanied by the Lincoln Orchestra, drawn from members of Local 627. The largest theater in the 18th and Vine district, the Lincoln gave African Americans a respite from the Jim Crow policy of downtown theaters. The Lincoln was owned by Jewish businessmen, but staffed by African Americans. In addition to the latest films from Paramount, the Lincoln featured films by Oscar Micheaux and other pioneering African American film makers.

In July, 1920, the Lincoln began featuring national revues and theatrical companies from New York and Chicago. The Lincoln Players, a local theatrical company, augmented the theater's fare with home-grown theatrical productions. The tremendous popularity of Mamie Smith's 1920 recording "Crazy Blues" ushered in a golden age of women blues shouters. In 1923, the Lincoln joined the Theater Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.), a string of 80 theaters stretching from Philadelphia to Kansas City. The T.O.B.A. circuit brought Mamie Smith, Ida Cox and other blues shouters to the Lincoln along with leading vaudeville acts. Once established, the Lincoln Theater became the leading venue for musical and theatrical productions in the 18th and Vine area.

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