Baltimore – In the early to mid-20th century, Pennsylvania Avenue was Broadway in old West Baltimore.
People came from all over the country to celebrate black arts and entertainment.
“Whether it was Louis Armstrong, The Temptations, The Miracles, Patti LaBelle, all those people performed at the Royal Theatre.
Hamlin grew up in Baltimore and owns the Avenue Bakery on Pennsylvania Avenue.
At the time, he said, the Royal Theater was the place where you had to be at your best if you wanted to succeed in showbiz.
“You couldn’t be successful in the entertainment business if you didn’t do well at the Royal Theater in Baltimore,” Hamlin said.
The Chitlin Circuit was the Black Theater Circuit.
It was groups of venues across the United States that allowed black artists to perform during times of segregation.
“In New York, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington DC, Chicago and even parts of Boston, African-American entertainers are finding places owned and operated by African-Americans to find themselves without the glare of Jim Crow. Our art form can really be represented, said Dr. Ida Jones, a historian in Baltimore.
Pennsylvania Avenue was once the center of black entertainment.
That all changed in 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
“There have been riots in cities across the country, and here on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Hamlin said. “The problem is someone decided Pennsylvania wasn’t worth playing. Pennsylvania has been neglected and neglected for more than 50 years.”
Since then, Pennsylvania Avenue has remained unchanged.
“When we talk about crime and what’s going on, we talk about culture,” Hamlin said. “We have to change our culture. To change our culture, we have to educate people about our history and our heritage. They live in the oldest African-American community in this country. I have no dignity.