William Roche, Renaissance Ballroom

William Roche was an African American Real Estate Agent that helped build the Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem. Constructed in 1921, the combination ballroom, casino and movie theatre was touted as the first non-segregated institution of its kind. Mr. Roche (Roach) was an immigrant from Montserrat who became a major player in uptown real estate and a member of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA. He owned a house cleaning business, but bought the northeast corner of 137th Street and Seventh Avenue, now known as Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. With Joseph H. Sweeney and Cleophus Charity, they built the Renaissance Theater there in 1921. They expanded… Read More

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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… Read More

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