A City Within a City
Little Rock's West Ninth Street Business District
Little Rock's West Ninth Street emerged as the economic and social center of Little Rock's African American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In a segregated economy, the black-owned businesses in the district were a source of pride, security and independence for the community.
The West Ninth Street business district served the needs of the community when Jim Crow kept services elsewhere unequal. Barbershops, restaurants, hotels, undertakers and jewelers lined West Ninth Street. African American physicians and pharmacists such as Drs. William J.E. Bruce, William O. Foster and Frank B. Coffin served their community with offices on West Ninth Street.
The West Ninth Street business district was also a social and entertainment center. Churches such as First Missionary Baptist and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal had deep roots here. Auditoriums in the Mosaic Templars National Grand Temple and the Dreamland Ballroom in Taborian Hall held graduations basketball games, dances and musical performances.
Business declined in the 1930s due to the Great Depression, but World War II brought renewed growth and activity in the 1940s and 1950s. Business again declined in the 1960s as urban renewal and the construction of housing projects and highways changed the city's landscape.
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