Beale Street

Memphis rose to fame in the early 20th century as a hub for segregation-era blacks in the Mississippi River Delta. Like LaVilla’s Ashley Street, in Memphis, Beale Street became a destination for traveling black musicians leading to it becoming known for its nightclubs, theaters, restaurants, pool halls, and live music scene.

During the mid-20th century, segregation-era policies targeted the Beale Street neighborhood as a primary focus of publicly supported urban renewal projects. As a result, by 1970, despite previously being declared a National Historic Landmark, the once thriving black community had become a ghost town dominated with vacant lots where hundreds of buildings once stood.

In 1973, the Beale Street Development Corporation (BSDC) was created, largely serving as a guardian of black culture and business life in the redevelopment narrative of Beale Street, between Second and Fourth Streets. Through the use of music and stories as tools of preservation and revitalization during the 1970s and 80s, the little of what remained of Beale Street is now one of the largest revenue-grossing attractions in Tennessee.