Cleveland in Bolivar County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
During the segregation era many towns in Mississippi had a particular street that served as the center of African American business and social life, catering not only to townsfolk but to farm hands and sharecroppers from the countryside who came to shop and celebrate on weekends. Cleveland’s major black thoroughfare, South Chrisman Street, was lined with nightclubs, cafes, hotels, churches, stores, homes, and offices. Its most famous night spot was the Harlem Inn.
South Chrisman Street was once a hub of activity for residents of Bolivar County, which in the 1920 census was not only the most populous county in the state at 57,669 (82.4 percent black), but also the one with the most African American tenant farmers. As the cotton economy boomed, many African Americans moved to the Delta from Hinds County and other areas to work on local plantations, including the family of Charley Patton, who became the leading figure in early Mississippi blues. Patton and his partner Willie Brown were familiar figures in Cleveland and surrounding communities. Cleveland-born guitarist Ernest “Whiskey Red”
Leslie and Virdie Hugger opened the Harlem Inn at 718 S. Chrisman in 1935 with no running water and only an outhouse in the back, but they eventually expanded it into a popular hotel, nightspot, pool hall, and eatery. Musicians, including traveling minstrel show bands, sometimes stayed at the hotel and played for their room and board. Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, Ike Turner, Rufus Thomas, Memphis Slim, Joe and Jimmy Liggins, Fats Domino, B. B. King, Bobby Bland, and many others also played the club, according to Virdie Hugger. Other venues in the “Low End” section of town on
Erected 2009 by Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 78.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1920.
Location. 33° 44.581′ N, 90° 43.117′ W. Marker is in Cleveland, Mississippi, in Bolivar County. Marker is on South Chrisman Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 210 South Chrisman Avenue, Cleveland MS 38732, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Cleveland Depot (approx. 0.2 miles away); David R. Bowen (approx. 0.2 miles away); Gospel Music and the Blues (approx. ¼ mile away); Amzie Moore Home (approx. ¼ mile away); Amzie Moore (approx. ¼ mile away); The Enlightenment of W.C. Handy (approx. 0.3 miles away); Bolivar County Confederate Monument (approx. 0.3 miles away); Bolivar County Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Cleveland.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 10, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 9, 2021, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida. This page has been viewed 157 times since then and 36 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 9, 2021, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida.