Beale Street-Memphis, TN
Beale Street, established in 1841 and one of the most iconic streets in America, became a thriving area for black commerce and culture around the time of the Civil War. But in the 1870s, yellow fever hit Memphis and severely affected the city’s population. As a result, the city had to forfeit its charter in 1879. During this time, former slave Robert Church acquired land in the area, and his investments helped restore the business community’s confidence in Memphis, which led to the regaining of its charter. Among Church’s contributions was the Robert R. Church Park at the corner of Fourth and Beale. The park quickly became a gathering center for blues musicians and featured a 2,000-seat auditorium.
Beale Street was also home to many black-owned businesses, clubs, restaurants, and shops and was the headquarters of Ida B. Wells’ anti-segregationist newspaper, Free Speech. The newspaper office was housed in the historic First Baptist Church (Beale Street), which was built by a congregation of freed slaves.