Historic, but not famous

Leonard Harper – producer, choreographer

Leonard Harper (April 9, 1899 – February 4, 1943, Harlem, New York) was a producer, stager, and choreographer in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s. Harper’s works spanned the worlds of vaudeville, cabaret, burlesque and Broadway musical comedy.

As a dancer, choreographer and studio owner, he coached many of the country’s leading performers, including Ruby Keeler, Fred Astaire and the Marx Brothers.  He produced floor shows and theatrical revues both uptown in Harlem and downtown on Broadway’s Great White Way. He opened up the Cotton Club. He also produced Lindy Hop revues and an act called Harper’s Lindy Hoppers at the Savoy Ballroom. From 1923–1924, Harper offered the Duke Ellington Orchestra the house band position at the speakeasies, Connie’s Inn in Harlem and the Kentucky Club in Times Square. By 1925, Harper owned a Times Square dance studio where black dancers taught their dances to white performers.

Harper was one of the leading figures who transformed Harlem into a cultural center during the 1920s. A street was named for Mr. Harper in 2015 in Harlen. “Leonard Harper Way” is located on 7th Avenue (also known as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.) and 132nd Street.

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