Gumby's Institutions > The American Negro Theatre
As was the case with Beth B'Nai Abraham, Gumby's Harlem location made him well-placed to collect materials related to the American Negro Theatre, including the program and handbill featured above. Founded in 1940 as a vehicle for African-American directors, actors, writers, and producers, many of the company's first five years of performances were held in two centers of Harlem culture: the Abyssinian Baptist Church and the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library (where it was often known as the "Harlem Library Little Theatre").
In addition to its proximate location and his general interest in theater, Gumby was no doubt also attracted to the ANT by its explicit mission to further African-American opportunities in the performing arts. As Abram Hill, one of the ANT's co-founders, later remembered: "we were a nonprofit organization that put on mainly new plays and plays of Negro life. That was one objective. Our other was to find the essence of an art form that is true to Negro life." From these twin goals, the ANT helped launch the careers of numerous luminaries, including Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier. Before folding in 1951, the ANT also achieved a measure of commercial success: its production of Anna Lucasta opened on Broadway in 1944 before running for more than 900 shows, making it one of the longest-running non-musical shows in Broadway history at the time.