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Karamu House Archive collection

Identifier: Spec-Coll-00097

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

The Karamu House Archive consists of records that document the history and administration of the institution. The collection includes office files, photographs, printed material, audio and video recordings, programming brochures, scripts and performance production files.


  • Creation: 1903-2022
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1919-2022

Biographical / Historical

Karamu House began as a settlement house in 1915, in Cleveland, Ohio. It was founded on the principle that people from different races, religions, and economic backgrounds could meet, learn and work together through the arts. Karamu House Theatre is recognized as the oldest, producing African American theatre in the nation. Initially called The Neighborhood Association and incorporated under that name in 1920, it was commonly referred to as The Playhouse Settlement. A theater building was added to the settlement in 1927 and named Karamu from the Swahili for "a place of joyful gathering." The Neighborhood Association changed its name to Karamu in 1941.


105 linear feet

Language of Materials



The Karamu House Archive is arranged in the following record series: 1 Production files, 2 Scripts, 3 Biographical files, 4 Administrative files, 5 Board of Directors/Board of Trustees files, 6 Development files, 7 Programming files, 8 Marketing files, 9 Financial records, 10 Audio Visual materials

Reparative description note

Special Collections acknowledges that historical records may contain harmful language that reflects attitudes and biases of their time. We do not alter, edit, or modify original records or original captions, as they are part of the historical record. We are working to address harmful language that may appear in staff-generated descriptions.

Karamu House Archive collection
In Progress
Special Collections staff
July, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Kelvin Smith Library Special Collections Repository

Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland OH 44106-7151 United States