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Civic Black Theatre


Founded in 1978, the Civic Black Theatre (CBT) “recognized a need” for “black theater” in Kalamazoo. According to WMU faculty members Leander C. Jones and Thomas Small, two of the group’s proponents, there was a local “void” that needed to be filled by black actors and directors, eager to bring to life the works of prominent black writers.

“In fact, he (Jones) felt that what little was being done to showcase black talent wasn’t nearly enough and formed a group that did lunchtime productions. The group also performed for high school and junior high school students during Black History Month.” (KG 13 May 1988)

At around the same time, The Kalamazoo Civic Players board and their managing director James C. Carver began to discuss the potential for an affiliate group of the Kalamazoo Civic Theater, one that would showcase black-focused productions throughout the year. Over the course of the first decade, performances included Trouble in Mind, Purlie, Zooman & the Sign, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, A Raisin in the Sun, and Dream Girls.

In 1999, in a move to cut costs, The Kalamazoo Civic Theater eliminated the CBT, along with Civic Summer Theatre and Civic Arena Theatre.


Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library Staff, December 2022



“Civic Black Theater to celebrate 10th anniversary”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 13 May 1988; page C5, column 1

“New symphony conductor is top local arts story”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 26 December 1999, page E1, column 1

Local History Room Files

Subject File: Civic Players, Kalamazoo-Black Theater Group

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