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To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Harlem's Apollo Theater the Smithsonian presents Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment. The exhibition traces the evolution of the Apollo—from its origins as a segregated burlesque hall to its starring role at the epicenter of African American entertainment and American popular culture. Nearly all forms of entertainment—comedy, dance, swing, jazz, rock 'n' roll, soul, hip hop and more—were welcomed on the Apollo stage.
Serving as a place where African American performers could start and advance their careers, the Apollo hosted some of the best-known names in entertainment—dancers Charles "Cholly" Atkins, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson; band leaders Cab Callaway and Duke Ellington; comedians Redd Foxx and Jackie "Moms" Mabley; and musicians ranging from Louis Armstrong, James Brown and Lionel Hampton to Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and The Jackson Five. Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing was organized by NMAAHC in collaboration with the Apollo Theater Foundation. The national tour is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).