Claiming Space

pa at club del morocco
Patrons at the Club Del Morocco. Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum. Full Record.

Just as ethnic populations often settled together in various locations in Tennessee to create neighborhoods, found businesses, or settle into an agrarian lifestyle, African Americans purchased farms and town lots, established themselves in marginal sections of town and cities, and staked out new neighborhoods. They purchased real estate and created business districts often linked to churches or schools. As the twentieth century progressed, these spaces were often disrupted by urban renewal programs.

Scholarly Essay

They Took Their Stand...With Race in Mind: Tennesseans and the Issue of Change
by Michael T. Bertrand

Lesson Plan

Jim Crow and the American Road Trip

Towns, Neighborhoods

Look closely at the arrangement of streets, neighborhoods, businesses, and institutions anywhere in Tennessee and you will find a pattern that began with Emancipation in the 1860s, if not earlier:  whites clustered in one part of the town and African Americans huddled in another. ...More.

Historic photo in frame of Matt & Henrietta GardnerMatt Gardner HomesteadHome of Mr. Manning, Knoxville, Tenn.Benjamin "Pap" Singleton and S.A. McClurePap Singleton SongsterDining Room at the Matt Gardner HomesteadNegro Homes -- Home of R.R. Church, Memphis, Tenn.Home of C.C. Dodson, Knoxville, Tenn.The Bottoms, Murfreesboro.Map of Mufreesboro, detail from Map of Rutherford County, Tenn. : from actual surveysOral history interview with Houston and Ella Overton Four children sitting in an Arbuckles Roasted Coffee shipping case Allardt!! Bruno Gernt Office in Allardt, Tennessee Harriman, Tennessee Census record for the family of Christian and Anna Marugg Hortense: A thriving negro settlement in Dickson County John and Calvin and Barlow RobertsPromise Land SchoolFort Cooper SchoolCompletion of the round barn on Hillcrest Farm, Belvidere Peter Staub Census record for the family of Christian and Anna Marugg Tennessee state gazetteer and business directory: GruetliA visit to Gruetli, the Swiss settlement in Grundy County Italian Immigrants Wedding

Business Districts

Although a few African Americans achieved business success in Tennessee prior to the American Civil War, it was not until the post-emancipation period that African American-owned businesses began to flourish. ...More.

C.V. Officer Ice CompanyHorses and Carriages in front of funeral home of undertaker G.W. Franklin, Chattanooga, Tenn. Kibbles Cafe AdPreston Scales AdThe Bottoms, Murfreesboro, TNTwo Post Barber Shop adW.L. Smith, Grocer in Knoxville, TNShoe repair adMr. Dodson, jeweller in Knoxville, Tenn.Fire at the Brown Derby LoungeMap of Chattanooga's "Red Light" DistrictSylvester McBee poses in front of his Vine Avenue fruit standBlack business in NashvilleLetter to Thomas Elsa Jones, President of Fisk University from Werthan Bag Company President Joe WerthanG.W. Franklin Funeral HomeCal Johnson buildingCarnegie Library on Vine1940s Beale StreetPeiser the tailor, Klinke the ice cream maker, the delivery man, the Italian restaurant owner, O'Nearn the Irish policemanPeople in a bar near Beale StreetLowenstein HouseJames & Allen Drug CompanyLansky Brothers Men's Shop on Famous Beale StreetLowenstein Brothers Department StoreAfrican American Street Cleaners in ChattanoogaTaylor & Company: Funeral Directors and Embalmers

Recreation and Leisure

At the turn of the century African Americans across Tennessee began to create their own leisure spaces. ...More.

Ad for Coney Island Park, an African American Park in NashvilleMaude Woodford as Aunt JemimaTennessee Colored Fair Association advertisementDriving to the Appalachian Exposition at Chilhowee ParkPatrons at the Club Del Morocco A Popular Negro SongSummer Resort AdSouvenir Program, Cotton Makers Jubilee, inside coverSouvenir Program, Cotton Maker's Jubilee, coverCotton Makers Jubilee Parade on Beale StreetCotton Makers Jubilee Parade on Beale Street, with children pulling floatcal johnson in his parkCal Johnson at his fountain Swimming pool at Lincoln ParkChurch ParkNational Conservation Exposition at Chilhowee Park, 1913

Public Venues

Venturing into the public realm could prove uncomfortable or even dangerous during the Jim Crow era. ...More

Bijou TheatreBijou TheatreGem TheaterLetter to Thomas Elsa Jones, President of Fisk University from Bijou Amusement Company President Alfred StarrCrockett Theater facadeTheater advertisements in the Nashville GlobeTennessee state gazetteer and business directory: Gruetli Lyric Theatre (Staub's Theatre) audience Staub's Theatre programmePeter StaubRosina StaubChurch Park Auditorium East Side of Pulaski Public Square (Antoinette Hall Opera House)Grow with Metro Campaign -- Municipal Auditorium -- Beverly BrileyRitz Theater--Jefferson StreetRyman Auditorium


One of the most sought-after freedoms granted during Emancipation was freedom of movement. ...More.

Pullman BlanketWaiting for the bus at the Memphis terminalVine Avenue Service StationPeople sitting on a busCross country travelersIda B. WellsChesapeake, Ohio & Southwestern Railroad Company v Ida B. WellsWaverly Place and Glendale Park streetcar