Soul Cinema: “Mr. Douglass’ Theatre”

What do Little Richard, James Brown, and Otis Redding Jr. have in common? Not by simply being three sons of the South, their lives also intersect at Macon, Georgia’s famed Douglass Theatre, where the three superstars made their way to the stage. The Douglass Theatre was constructed and owned by an African American, Charles Henry Douglass, who opened the facility’s doors in 1921 to offer vaudeville, jazz, blues, and R&B, and soul music.

This extraordinary legacy gets a special cinematic treatment in the documentary Mr. Douglass’s Théâtre, which chronicles Douglass living and thriving during the Jim Crow South, despite a KKK-financed bounty on his head as well as resisting a mob that deposited the lynched body of a Black man in the lobby of his hotel.

The film frames his unique life, from his birth soon after the Civil War in 1870 to his rise as a national business figure and Macon’s first Black millionaire to the time of his death in 1940.  Painstakingly researched and artfully told, the documentary opens with Douglass’ story, and it continues to the present-day, where the theatre operates as a vital part of the cultural and entertainment scene in Macon.