Birmingham in Jefferson County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
Fourth Avenue Historic District.
Prior to 1900 a "black business district" did not exist in Birmingham. In a pattern characteristic of Southern cities found during Reconstruction, black businesses developed alongside those of whites in many sections of the downtown area.
After the turn of the century, Jim Crow laws authorizing the distinct separation of "the races" and subsequent restrictions placed on black firms forced the growing black business community into an area along Third, Fourth, and Fifth Avenue North, from 15th to 18th Streets. Segregation and discrimination created a small world in which black enterprise was accepted and to which blacks had open access. This area served as the business, social, and cultural center for blacks with activities similar to those in the predominantly white districts. The businesses located in the area included barber and beauty shops, mortuaries, saloons, restaurants, theatres, photographic studios, cleaners, shoe shine parlors, and motels. These black businesses and their successors continued to do well throughout the '60s.
The black business district was not only "alive" during the day light hours but "thrived" throughout the night. On Friday and Saturday nights, the streets were filled with crowds of people visiting the bars or just out for a stroll.
While most of the theatres provided "movies" the Frolic and Hury Henry had "live" stage shows during the 1930s. Not only did singers and dancers captivate the audiences, but live vaudeville shows came to the area. Bob Williams, owner of "Bob's Savoy," a famous night club and restaurant, entertained the elite of the black athletic and entertainment world. After the Civil Rights struggle, many new doors were opened literally and figuratively to blacks. Many black businesses, especially hotels and cafes, suffered with the end of segregation. Once allowed into white establishments, sadly many blacks did not return to the black-owned businesses. The abandonment of black-owned businesses caused a major "economic" impact on the area, causing many to do their shopping in malls and other areas.
National Register of Historic Places, February 11, 1982.
Erected 1982 by Alabama Historical Commission, Urban Impact, Inc. and the City of Birmingham.
Location. 33° 30.924′ N, 86° 48.696′ W. Marker is in Birmingham, Alabama, in Jefferson County. Marker is at the intersection of 4th Avenue North and 17th Street North, on the right when traveling west on 4th Avenue North. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Birmingham AL 35203, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. 4th Avenue District (here, next to this marker); Green Acres Café (within shouting distance of this marker); Emory Overton Jackson (within shouting distance of this marker); Brock Drugs Building (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Eddie James Kendrick (about 300 feet away); Fraternal Hotel Building (about 300 feet away); "Peace Be Still" (about 500 feet away); Kneeling Ministers (about 500 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Birmingham.
Also see . . . Who was A. G. Gaston? A prominent African-American businessmen of the 4th Avenue District. (Submitted on January 21, 2010, by Timothy Carr of Birmingham, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights • Entertainment • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Timothy Carr of Birmingham, Alabama. This page has been viewed 1,884 times since then and 32 times this year. Last updated on , by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by Timothy Carr of Birmingham, Alabama. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.