HARLEM IN HAVANA (1935-1967)

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Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana Revue was the leading attraction on Royal American Shows carnival exhibition for nearly four decades of the 20th century. Considered a Black and Cuban stage revue featuring music, dance and comedy, Claxton's multicultural revue combined the best professional acts from the U.S. and Cuba, a chorus-line of brown skin showgirls, and live all-colored orchestra playing Blues, Jazz, Doo-Wop, Latin and Afro-Cuban music of the day. 

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Arguably the hallmark girl show revue in North America, Claxton's showcase attracted brown-skin émigrés from all over the Caribbean performing exotic, rumba, salsa and calypso dances. Accompanied by an endless array of vaudeville headliners and zany comedians, these ladies competed for a box office just a tent away from White burlesque icons Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand, and a host of other all-white Las Vegas-style cabaret shows. 

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During the height of its popularity in the 40s and 50s, Harlem in Havana financially toppled the competition, smashed industry records and garnered nation-wide and international publicity as one of the finest revues ever presented under canvas. Labeled a 'jig show' by the outdoor entertainment industry and media of the day, Harlem in Havana, nevertheless, rose above the segregated stage and achieved mainstream and international recognition. 

The popularity of Claxton’s show was comparable to that of Ringling Bros. Greatest Show on Earth, Harlem’s famed Cotton Club, Havana’s sizzling hot Tropicana nightclub, and Broadway’s lavish theatre girl production, The Ziegfeld Follies. Harlem in Havana was headquartered in Tampa, Florida for nearly forty years. 

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Most Notably, Claxton’s multicultural stage show was for African American audiences during a time when mainstream entertainment was off limits to Blacks. Harlem in Havana was also a needed platform during a time when mainstream entertainment was closed to blacks and other performers of color. 

For the many patrons across North America who witnessed the one of a kind spectacle, and still remember it today, Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana will forever be one of the greatest outdoor attractions in American traveling carnival history.