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Palace Auditorium (c.1911), v09, 318-322 N Farish St, Jackson, MS, USA

Palace Auditorium (c.1911), v09, 318-322 N Farish St, Jackson, MS, USA
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Jackson, MS (est. 1821, pop 165,000)

• original name is said to have been “Caesar’s Palace Auditorium” • the story goes that the owner, a man named Caesar, was black • city officials, seeing Caesar's name on the building's painted sign, ordered him remove it • assuming the story is accurate, the carefully centered placement of the current sign suggests that not just the word "Caesar's," but the entire original sign was replaced —Tony Dennis, proprietor of Dennis Brothers Shoe Repair, Failed and Forgotten Dreams on Jackson’s Farish Street

"This street had three grocery stores and four furniture stores. Myles Peanut was across the street. Mr Myles was Italian. There were some Jews and black business owners. It was mixed here. Palace Auditorium was across the street. Duke Ellington, Count Basey, Louis Armstrong, Cab Callaway, B.B. King and Dinah Washington all played here. I saw Steve Wonder with five blind boys holding hands and walking down the street. That was before he was Stevie Wonder. You could go into Daddy Reed’s with 27 cents and come out fat as a pig. We walked through the front door at any story down here. Straight through the front door. There was dignity and respect and no signs that said ‘colored.’ It was beautiful." —"Dr. Shoemaker," Our Southern Souls

• it's the only building on the block listed as a Farish Street Historic District contributing property • according to a an engineering report, stands on the verge of collapse —Mississippi Business Journal

• “The redevelopment is just an effort to get us out of here so that the white folks can take over,” he said. “They need to tear it all down. They’ve waited too late.” —Tony Dennis

The Farish Street Historic District

“but out of the bitterness we wrought an ancient past here in this separate place and made our village here.” —African Village by Margaret Walker (1915-1998)

• during the Reconstruction era that followed the American Civil War, white Southerners struggled to reclaim their lives as millions of black Southerners sought new ones • with the stroke of a pen, the Emancipation Proclamation had transformed African slaves into African Americans & released them into a hostile, vengeful & well-armed white community amid the ruins of a once flourishing society

• the antebellum South had been home to over 262,000 rights-restricted "free blacks" • post-emancipation, the free black population soared to 4.1 million • given that the South had sacrificed 20% of it's white males to the war, blacks now comprised over half the total population of some southern states • uneducated & penniless, most of the new black Americans depended on the Freedman's Bureau for food & clothing

• the social & political implications of the sudden shift in demographics fueled a violence-laced strain of conventional American racism • in this toxic environment, de facto racial segregation was a given, ordained as Mississippi law in 1890 • with Yankees (the U.S. Army) patrolling the city & Maine-born Republican Adelbert Ames installed in the Governor's Mansion, the Farish Street neighborhood was safe haven for freedmen

• as homeless African American refugees poured into Jackson from all reaches of the devastated state, a black economy flickered to life in the form of a few Farish Street mom-and-pops • unwelcome at white churches, the former slaves built their own, together with an entire neighborhood's worth of buildings, most erected between 1890 & 1930

• by 1908 1/3 of the district was black-owned, & half of the black families were homeowners • the 1913-1914 business directory listed 11 African American attorneys, 4 doctors, 3 dentists, 2 jewelers, 2 loan companies & a bank, all in the Farish St. neighborhood • the community also had 2 hospitals & numerous retail & service stores —City Data

• by mid-20th c. Farish Street, the state's largest economically independent African American community, had become the cultural, political & business hub for central Mississippi's black citizens [photos] • on Saturdays, countryfolk would come to town on special busses to sell produce & enjoy BBQ while they listened to live street music • vendors sold catfish fried in large black kettles over open fires • hot tamales, a Mississippi staple, were also a popular street food —The Farish District, Its Architecture and Cultural Heritage

“I’ve seen pictures. You couldn’t even get up the street. It was a two-way street back then, and it was wall-to-wall folks. It was just jam-packed: people shopping, people going to clubs, people eating, people dancing.” — Geno Lee, owner of the Big Apple Inn

• as Jackson's black economy grew, Farish Street entertainment venues prospered, drawing crowds with live & juke blues music • the musicians found or first recorded in the Neighborhood include Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson II & Elmore James

• Farish Street was also home to talent scouts & record labels like H.C. Speir, & Trumpet Records, Ace Records • both Speir & Trumpet founder Lillian McMurry were white Farish St. business owners whose furniture stores also housed recording studios • both discovered & promoted local Blues musicians —The Mississippi Encyclopedia

Richard Henry Beadle (1884-1971), a prominent Jackson photographer, had a studio at 199-1/2 N. Farish • he was the son of Samuel Alfred Beadle (1857-1932), African-American poet & attorney • born the son of a slave, he was the author of 3 published books of poetry & stories

• The Alamo Theatre was mainly a movie theater but periodically presented musical acts such as Nat King Cole, Elmore James & Otis Spann • Wednesday was talent show night • 12 year old Jackson native Dorothy Moore entered the contest, won & went on to a successful recording career, highlighted by her 1976 no. 1 R&B hit, "Misty Blue" [listen] (3:34)

• in their heyday, Farish Street venues featured African American star performers such as Bessie Smith & the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington & Dinah Washington played Farish Street venues —Farish Street Records

• on 28 May, 1963, John Salter, a mixed race (white/Am. Indian) professor at historically black Tougaloo College, staged a sit-in with 3 African American students at the "Whites Only" Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Jackson • they were refused service • an estimated 300 white onlookers & reporters filled the store

• police officers arrived but did not intercede as, in the words of student Anne Moody, "all hell broke loose" while she and the other black students at the counter prayed • "A man rushed forward, threw [student] Memphis from his seat and slapped my face. Then another man who worked in the store threw me against an adjoining counter." • this act of civil disobedience is remembered as the the signature event of Jackson's protest movement —L.A. Times

"This was the most violently attacked sit-in during the 1960s and is the most publicized. A huge mob gathered, with open police support while the three of us sat there for three hours. I was attacked with fists, brass knuckles and the broken portions of glass sugar containers, and was burned with cigarettes. I'm covered with blood and we were all covered by salt, sugar, mustard, and various other things." —John Salter

• the Woolworth Sit-in was one of many non-violent protests by blacks against racial segregation in the South • in 1969 integration of Jackson's public schools began • this new era in Jackson history also marked the beginning of Farish Street's decline —The Farish Street Project

"Integration was a great thing for black people, but it was not a great thing for black business... Before integration, Farish Street was the black mecca of Mississippi.” — Geno Lee, Big Apple Inn

• for African Americans, integration offered the possibility to shop outside of the neighborhood at white owned stores • as increasing numbers of black shoppers did so, Farish Street traffic declined, businesses closed & the vacated buildings fell into disrepair

• in 1983, a Farish St. redevelopment plan was presented
• in 1995 the street was designated an endangered historic place by the National Trust for Historic Preservation
• in the 1990s, having redeveloped Memphis' Beale Street, Performa Entertainment Real Estate, was selected to redevelop Farish St
• in 2008, The Farish Street Group took over the project with plans for a B.B. King's Blues Club to anchor the entertainment district
• in 2012, having spent $21 million, the redevelopment — limited to repaving of the street, stabilizating some abandoned buildings & demolishing many of the rest — was stuck in limbo —Michael Minn

• 2017 update:

"Six mayors and 20 years after the City of Jackson became involved in efforts to develop the Farish Street Historic District, in hopes of bringing it back to the bustling state of its heyday, the project sits at a standstill. Recent Mayor Tony Yarber has referred to the district as “an albatross.” In September of 2014, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sanctioned the City of Jackson, the Jackson Redevelopment Authority, and developers for misspending federal funds directed toward the development of the Farish Street Historic District. Work is at a halt and "not scheduled to resume until December 2018, when the City of Jackson repays HUD $1.5 million." —Mississippi Dept. of Archives & History

Farish Street Neighborhood Historic District, National Register # 80002245, 1980
Date: 2018-06-13 21:31:05

jackson hinds county mississippi ms united states usa north america south southeast deep south african-american black civil rights architecture building business entertainment auditorium nightclub venue street art mural bench entrance door 1910s 20th century

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