Through the eras of segregation and Jim Crow laws, African-American audiences were barred from many performance spaces — even ones where African-American musicians performed. Determined not to be barred from enjoying the music their own community was creating, people began to build and promote inclusive venues, where African-American residents and visitors could enjoy the music and events.
The Chitlin’ Circuit was born out of a collection of venues spread across the eastern, southern, and Midwest regions of the U.S. These spaces brought together African-American performers and audiences, and Prince George’s County played an important role in the circuit.
At Wilmer’s Park in Brandywine, famous artists like Patti LaBelle, Chuck Berry, Duke Ellington, Otis Redding, The Temptations, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Sam Cooke took the stage. Opening in the 1950s, it offered a restaurant, two outdoor stages, open-air dining pavilions, recreation areas, and overnight accommodations. The park held concerts until it eventually closed in the 1990s, and there are currently plans to determine how it can best come to life again. For now, you can share your memories of the space.
While big cities often grabbed the weekend slots for shows, many huge performances graced the stage at Evans Grill during the week. The rural Prince George’s County venue became a hot spot on Wednesday nights when artists like Little Richard, the Four Tops, Ray Charles, Diana Ross, and Fats Domino played at the lively location. It opened in 1946, starting with records then moving to local bands, and finally booking major artists.
These important spots provided powerful, inclusive spaces for African Americans in the region to come together. To dig deeper into this important past, find other museums and historic sites in Prince George’s County.