Prior to 1900 a "black business district" did not exist in Birmingham. In a pattern characteristic of Southern cities found during Reconstruction, black businesses developed alongside those of whites in many sections of the downtown area.
After the turn of the century, Jim Crow laws authorizing the distinct separation of "the races" and subsequent restrictions placed on black firms forced the growing black business community into an area along Third, Fourth, and Fifth Avenue North, from 15th to 18th Streets. Segregation and discrimination created a small world in which black enterprise was accepted and to which blacks had open access. This area served as the business, social, and cultural center for blacks with activities similar to those in the predominantly white distracts. The businesses located in the area included barber and beauty shops, mortuaries, saloons, restaurants, theatres, photographic studios, cleaners, shoe shine parlors, and motels. These black businesses and their successors continued to do well throughout the '60s.
The black business district was not only "alive" during the day light hours but "thrived" throughout the night. On Friday and Saturday nights, the streets were filled with crowds of people visiting the bars or just out for a stroll. Live entertainment made the district "the place to be."
While most of the theatres provided "movies" the Frolic and Hury Henry had "live" stage shows during the 1930s. Not only did singers and dancers captivate the audiences, but live vaudeville shows came to the area. Bob Williams, owner of the "Bob's Savoy," a famous night club and restaurant, entertained the lite of the black athletic and entertainment world. After the Civil Rights struggle, many new doors were opened literally and figuratively to blacks. Many black businesses, especially hotels and cafes, suffered with the end of segregation. Once allowed into white establishments, sadly many blacks did not return to the black-owned businesses. The abandonment of black-owned businesses caused a major "economic" impact on the area, causing many to do their shopping in malls and other area.
National Register of Historic Places, February 11, 1982.