national archive initiative 



BTC's National Archive Initiative (NAI) was established to document and tell the vital story of black theaters and black theater practitioners. The project involves comprehensive documentation  of video, audio and still images that celebrate the story and history of black practitioners in the performing arts.

Our immediate objectives include: 

  • illuminating best practices in the archival process
  • demystifying and arming the black theatre community (and our allies) with information about archival processes
  • fostering a better understanding of black theatrical history and its collective impact on the world 

Black Theatre Commons is reaching out to Black Legacy Theatres--historically run black theatres with a history of 20 or more years of producing and sustaining black theatre.  

The NAI is collaborating with the Smith Fund at The National Museum of African American History and Culture to digitize the archives. The Smith Fund, in partnership with Black Theatre Commons and guidance from an archivist, BTC will harness the rich trove of material enabling scholars to have unlimited access to Black theatrical records. The NAI project is funded by a generous grant from The Andrew Mellon Foundation. 



We are actively gathering materials for our archival project. Below is a comprehensive list of general materials we are in search of to add to the digital archive:

  • advertisements
  • art boards
  • audio & video tapes
  • board records
  • box office statements
  • budgets
  • by-laws
  • certificates of incorporation
  • contact sheets
  • contracts
  • correspondence 
  • costume plots
  • digital media (flash drives, compact discs, floppy discs, external hard drives
  • flyers
  • grant applications
  • handbills
  • handbooks
  • index cards
  • insurance materials
  • invoces
  • itineraries
  • light set-ups
  • lighting plots
  • light board hook-ups
  • meeting minutes
  • membership lists
  • memoranda
  • mock-ups
  • newspaper clippings
  • notes
  • personal materials
  • photographs
  • posters
  • press kits
  • programs
  • prop plots
  • proposals
  • reports
  • resumes
  • royalty statements
  • scrapbooks
  • scripts
  • script logs
  • set designs & drawings
  • stage manager's daily performance & rehearsal reports 
  • teaching materials
  • telegrams
  • theatre tickets 

If you are interested in participating in this initiative, please click on the link below to take a brief survey:

National Archive Institute Survey

Once you have submitted the survey, Mr. Fullwood will contact you directly to schedule an interview to obtain more information about your theater’s records. If you have questions about other materials that are not listed here, or would like more information about the project, please contact Mr. Fullwood at for a consultation.

Adrienne Kennedy on the cover of Black Masks Magazine, Aug/Sept 1996

Adrienne Kennedy on the cover of Black Masks Magazine, Aug/Sept 1996


Leading the Initative is Steven G. Fullwood, former assistant curator of the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. Mr. Fullwood brings 20 years of experience in archiving Black
theatrical culture and history. He has singularly, or as part of a team, processed a number of collections at the Schomburg Center including in the American Negro Theatre Records, the Helen Armstead-Johnson Theatre Collection, the Alice Childress Papers, the Lorraine Hansberry Papers, Negro Ensemble Company Records, among others. Mr. Fullwood is, along with archivist Miranda Mims, the co-founder of the Nomadic Archivists Project, an initiative that partners with organizations, institutions, and individuals to establish, preserve, and enhance collections that explore the African Diasporic experience.