Core Mission:

1. To produce transformational theater that helps to shift the inaccuracy around African Americans' cultural identity by telling authentic stories of Black lifestyle;


2. To use theater arts as a means to educate, enrich, entertain, empower & inform the national conscience around current social issues impacting our communities;


3. To provide a safe space for artists of color to articulate the complexity, beauty & artistic excellence intrinsic in how we experience the world in the domain of acting, directing, producing, designing, play writing and entrepreneurial autonomy.

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Organizational History:

National Black Theatre [NBT] was founded in 1968 in the heart of Harlem by the late Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, an award winning, visionary artist and entrepreneur. With a distinguished history of innovative work in its community, NBT is among the oldest Black Theaters in the country, and amongst the longest owned and operated by a woman of color. NBT is also a pioneer as the first to establish revenue generating Black art complex located at 2031 5th Avenue in Harlem, NY.  NBT’s achievements reflect Dr. Teer’s lifelong commitment to community service through the arts. She believed whole-heartedly in the power of Black Theatre to uplift, strengthen, and heal Black communities on a local and on a national level.


NBT's core mission remains the same today as it was at the time of its founding, to produce transformational theatrical experiences that enhance African American cultural identity by telling authentic stories of the Black experience. Dr. Teer envisioned NBT as a means to educate, enrich, entertain, empower and inform the national conscience around current social justice issues that impact our communities. We continue to provide a safe unhindered space for artist of color to articulate the complexity, and beauty of their experience through theater.


Since it’s founding, NBT has produced over 300 original theatre works that have toured the USA, the Caribbean, Central America, Africa, and Asia. NBT garnered over 45 AUDELCO Black Theatre Excellence Awards and received a CEBA Award of Merit for the award winning production of “Legacy: Memories of the Gospel Song” that aired on CBS in 1988. From the 1989 production of “Song of Sheba,” and its subsequent tour of Japan, through the 2013 production of “Detroit 67,” co-produced with the Public Theatre and Classical Theatre of Harlem and winner of the Kennedy Center Drama Prize, NBT has been on the leading edge of Black theater production in America


NBT has pursued its mission over four decades of service through the operation of its 3 core programs: Theatre Arts Program, Entrepreneurial Arts Program and the Communication Arts Program. In 2008 Sade Lythcott took over as CEO of NBT after the untimely passing of her mother & founder Dr. Teer.




National Black Theatre’s physical space located at 2031-33 National Black Theatre Way (Fifth Avenue) and consists of a 64,000 square feet complex located on Harlem’s main commercial corridor at 125th Street and Fifth Avenue. Dr. Barbara Ann Teer commissioned GEPPAUL and its Haitian American founder and chief architect Gerard Paul to execute the building’s design. The interior and exterior relief art was commissioned and created on the premises by seven traditional New Sacred Nigerian Artists from Oshogbo, Nigeria. The older North Tower portion of the building faces Fifth Avenue and 126th Street and the newer South Tower faces Fifth Avenue and 125th Street. The building contains 59,200 feet of commercially viable space and comprises the entire 125th – 126th street block front of east Fifth Avenue. The building’s three floors are accessible by elevator. NBT’s third floor is handicapped accessible as well as the bathrooms. Transportation by bus, subway, rail and car is easily accessible, making it an ideal location.


Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's

National Black Theatre
Institute of Action Arts