Without Him, This City Might Not Exist

Poolroom on Beale Street in Memphis, TN
Leslie Taylor-Grover
May 25, 2021

Black people not only built one of the most famous streets in one of the most famous cities in the U.S., but we also saved it from being destroyed and forgotten by history! Next time you visit, remember you’re standing on sacred ground. Now, where is all this history of Black excellence?

This southern city sits along the Mississippi River. It’s seen our people suffer through the Civil War, white hatred and even Yellow Fever. But it also had to be rebuilt and revived by our people. Have you guessed it yet?

Memphis, Tennessee! In the 1870s, due to hard times, the city’s population dwindled, and the city lost its charter. But one formerly enslaved man, Robert Church, saw an opportunity. 

His shrewd moves allowed him to bring in Black businesses, providing opportunities for our people to rebuild the city. This had a long-lasting domino effect.

The businesses drew more people. Soon famous musicians, artists, and entertainers began to gather on Beale Street, where Church rented space to Black businesses. So many people began to visit and move to the area that Memphis regained its charter and started to thrive!

Black excellence remains undefeated. Beale Street shows just how enduring our cooperation, entrepreneurship, and land ownerships have rooted themselves in our vast Black American history. We must never forget stories like this!

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