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Metro Council approves funding for renovation and return of historic Lincoln Theater

11 months 6 days 3 hours ago Friday, August 11 2023 Aug 11, 2023 August 11, 2023 10:30 PM August 11, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - The Lincoln Theater sits empty and vacant on Eddie Robinson Dr., right down the road from the Hotel Lincoln. Its rich history and cultural significance is why the state is stepping in to assist the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame in restoring and preserving the theater.

"The office of community development is working to support both the Hotel Lincoln and the Lincoln Theater as part of a concentrated effort to target investment and revitalize those historic cultural touchstones," EBR Director of Community Revitalization Marlee Pittman said.

Opened way back in 1951, The Lincoln Theater served as a community center for South Baton Rouge and is listed on the national register of historic places.

"It was not just a theater, it was a community meeting place and a business center," Chairman of the Board for the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame Dr. Thomas Durant said. "In fact, there were offices upstairs for Reverend Jemison and his group."

Reverend Jemison was a instrumental part of African-American history. In 1953, he helped organize the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott, which would be the model for the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the arrest of Rosa Parks that ignited the civil rights movement.

"We believe that Dr. Jemison met with Dr. Martin Luther King here, who came to Baton Rouge to find out how to organize a bus boycott," Durant said.

The theater played a huge part in Baton Rouge culture during segregation, attracting big name stars to perform on stage.

"Naturally being a theater, they would attract stars like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Nat King Cole, Mahalia Jackson and B.B. King," Durant said.

Now the theater is being revived by the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame. Wednesday, the Metro Council approved $45,000 in funding for repairs to the Lincoln. Dr. Durant says that will be used to bring the theater back to Baton Rouge in a new way, while still preserving the history of the space.

"We want to preserve it, but we want to utilize it ,and we want it to be an integral part of the community that would draw people here for a good reason: to learn, to educate, to inspire, and to entertain," Durant said. "It's been a long journey, but we believe the payoff in the end will be when we can say showtime at the Lincoln!"

The project is still in phase one of the interior repairs, but residents will soon see the exterior changes take place and can expect a brand new marquee and the re-opening of the Lincoln in 2024.

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