Stop #4: The Iroquois Theater

413-15 South Rampart Street

Where did Louis Armstrong win a talent show as a youth after dipping his face in flour and performing?

This African American vaudeville and movie theater operated from 1911-1920. One of the first theaters to feature jazz in a concert setting, it was eventually eclipsed by the larger Lyric Theater which opened in 1920.

In the era of Jim Crow, new, independent theater houses dedicated to African American performers and audiences opened throughout the South. The "Back of Town" neighborhood in the 400 block of South Rampart was a hub of African American entertainment and socializing in New Orleans.

As a young teen growing up in the "Back of Town" neighborhood, Louis Armstrong frequented movies at the theater, and he once won a talent show after he dipped his face in flour, an ironic twist on the usual practice of performing in black face.

"Some nights we would see moving pictures at the Iroquois Theater---10 cents each for May Ann + Tom, 5 cents for Mama Lucy, + me. (I won an amateur contest --- dip face in flower [flour]." - Louis Armstrong, as published in Thomas Brothers, ed., Louis Armstrong in His Own Words (Oxford Press, 2001)

Images

The Iroquois Theater, 2016.

The Iroquois Theater, 2016.

Recent picture of Iroquois Theater from the corner of Perdido and South Rampart Street. | Creator: Joseph Cripple View File Details Page

Audio

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Cite this Page:

Joseph Cripple, Mindy Jarrett, Charles Chamberlain, “Stop #4: The Iroquois Theater ,” New Orleans Historical, accessed April 26, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/1301.
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