12th & Chicon: Remembering the Harlem Theater

According to a book co-written by the curator of the Austin History Center, the Harlem Theater was one of only seven black-owned theaters in the country in the early 20th century. And, compared to other theaters in Austin, where black customers were either not allowed or segregated to the balcony seats, it offered moviegoers their full rights. On Dec. 30, 1973, it burned to the ground. Neither the Austin Police Department nor the fire department has records of the fire. The community has only ideas about what caused it – perhaps arson, perhaps electrical fire – but no real answers.

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Audrey McGlinchy