The Lincoln Theatre; Representing the Constantly Changing American Culture

When searching for a Lincoln site of memory, I knew that I wanted to find a connection through the arts. Performing on the stage is one of my many passions and I thought it would be interesting to see what theaters and performance spaces Abraham Lincoln has been associated with over time. The most immediate theatre that came out through research was the Lincoln Theatre of Washington D.C. However I found it more compelling to research Raleigh’s own Lincoln Theatre. Having an Abraham Lincoln site of memory so close to home felt more appropriate to devote my research towards.

Located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, The Lincoln Theatre emerged from an old night club. However, Seventy-five years ago, this venue originally opened as a movie theatre called the Lincoln Theatre (Manconi-The News and Observer.)   Individual singers and bands perform concerts here almost nightly. By resurfacing the old Lincoln reputation with the theatre, it gave the space a new sense of class and dignity after being seen as a dirty night club for so many  years. By bringing back to old name and emphasizing the name of Abraham Lincoln, the new owners found this would make for a smoother transition into a successful business. 

llPhoto taken from Disco Donnie Presents website: 

The most famous Lincoln Theatre in America is found in the center of the political hemisphere, Washington D.C. Established in 1922, on a street known as the “Black Broadway” the theatre housed some of the world’s most influential musical arts of the decades, including: Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and many more. It became a hub for the black artists in Washington, D.C. until the theatre closed in 1968 due to the race riots (Roberts- The Washington Post.)

After decades, money was raised to restore the site to a theatre once again. In 1994, with an inaugural performance dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., not the founding father, Abraham Lincoln. The new space welcomed all types of performances, but after time, they began to form a more political trend. Breaching past the race issues of our country, this theatre also held performances that questioned sexual identity (Fears-The Washington Post.)


Exterior of the Lincoln Theatre, Washington, D.C.

Interior of the Lincoln Theatre, Washington, D.C.

After his assassination in the Ford’s Theatre, Lincoln became associated with theaters all across the country. His name represents more theaters across the country than any other President.  Dana Rodriguez goes into more detail on the Ford’s Theatre in her Lincoln Memory Site. She mentioned that even years after his assassination, the venue was nowhere near as successful where it was before the event occurred. Many Americans were still hooked on the idea that Lincoln was associated with a death in this theatre. That connection has still stayed strong throughout the years.

There is not a specific type of music that the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, NC produces, yet most bands (and the website) give off and old time rock and roll feel. Since Abraham Lincoln was never associated with rock and roll during his lifetime, I found this bit of information to be most interesting. Having Abraham Lincoln represent the theatre juxtaposes the culture behind rock and roll. This creates an interesting outlook…



Photo taken from the bottom of Lincoln Theatre website’s home page: 

Ever since Abraham Lincoln’s death, he has been seen as a beacon for “union, equality, and justice” (Schwartz)–does-lincoln-still-belong-to-the-ages?rgn=main;view=fulltext. But Lincoln’s image branded with the Lincoln Theatre of Raleigh, North Carolina show a man that seems cool and hip, not necessarily fighting for equality across warring parties. Where did he develop this new sense of being cool and hip?

Another site of Lincoln memory that is being researched by Sarah Richardson for this class is the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Though this seems to be an absurd transformation of Abraham Lincoln memory, it seems to be more historically accurate than it would appear. In the film, Lincoln battle the zombie nation to protect his own, just as he had in the Civil War (only replacing the confederate armies with those of vampire ones.) In this example, Lincoln was mixed with a new cause to fight for. Many teens are encapsulated by vampire, zombie, and werewolf stories; adding Lincoln to these stories gives him a new level of relate-ability for teens across American. Though his actions and decisions were practically identical to the ones made in the Civil War, in the American young adult population, his swag status grew exponentially (Richardson.) 





Works Cited The Lincoln Theatre- Raleigh, North Carolina The Lincoln Theatre- Washington, D.C.

Darryl, Fears. “The Word That Is the Very Definition of Unspeakable; Black Entertainer Endorses Moratorium on Slu.” The Washington Post 2 Dec. 2006. Web

Jenkins, Corey. “Flux Pavilion, Cookie Monsta, Brown & Gammon at Lincoln Theatre.” Disco Donnie Presents. 24 May 2012. Web. <Flux Pavilion, Cookie Monsta, Brown & Gammon at Lincoln Theatre>.

Richardson, Sarah. “Abraham Lincoln in Film: Taking on the Role of a Vampire Hunter.”

Roberts, Roxanne. “The New Jewel of U Street; Lincoln Theatre’s Gala Return.” The Washington Post 5 Feb. 1994. Web.

Rodriguez, Dana. “Ford’s Theatre.”

Schwartz, Barry. Abraham Lincoln in the Post-heroic Era History and Memory in Late Twentieth-century America. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2008. Print.

Manconi, David. “New Club, Old Spot.” The News and Oberver 21 Jan. 2001. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

1 thought on “Lincoln Theatre

  1. Sarah Richardson

    I too am a performer and find the idea of Lincoln memory in the theatre fascinating. I find it interesting that the Lincoln Theatre catered to African American performers especially knowing the associations of the connection between the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln. Even though Lincoln was not alive during the era of rock and roll do you believe the music performed in Lincoln Hall is connected with Lincoln beyond the communal space of the theatre? Are any song lyrics ever allude to the memories tied to Lincoln? Also what does it say about our generation with this “hip and cool” image of Lincoln through theatre and film? Is this a way of recirculating Lincoln’s image, making him a modern heroic figure? Great post!

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