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Morton Theatre

195 W. Washington St.
Athens, GA 30601

The Morton Theatre is one of the only surviving vaudeville theatres in the United States that was built, owned, and operated by an African American. The Morton Building was built in 1910 by Monroe Bowers (“Pink”) Morton, a prominent, local, African American businessman. Although he had little formal education, Morton, whose mother had been a slave, became a prominent figure in Athens’ history. In 1896 he was chosen as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. He was also a contractor and owned over 30 buildings, the Morton being the largest. At one time, the Morton building formed the core of the downtown Black business district. Many of Athens’ Black doctors, dentists and pharmacists practiced in the Morton Building. Among these were Dr. Ida Mae Johnson Hiram, the first Black woman to be licensed to practice medicine (dentistry) in the State, and Dr. William H. Harris, one of the founders of the Georgia State Medical Association of Colored Physicians, Dentists and Druggists. The theatre was opened on May 18, 1910 for vaudeville acts and those of local, regional and nations performers. Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong and Ma Rainey performed at the Morton during its hey-day. The Morton is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and still operates today as a performing arts theatre.