“B” is for Black Business Districts
“B” is for Black Business Districts. Prior to the Civil War, free persons of color in South Carolina owned businesses—generally in the service industry—such as blacksmith and harness shops. These businesses served and operated within both the black and white communities. Once segregation was enacted in the 1890s, black business districts appeared. Jim Crow laws forced many businesses either to operate separate facilities for black customers—or deny them service. Black entrepreneurs stepped in to establish operations in which African Americans could be served with courtesy and dignity. Residential segregation in many cities restricted most of these businesses to African American sections of towns and cities. This led to the creation of black business districts that flourished until the 1960s. With the demise of legal segregation and the onset of gentrification, many traditionally black business districts declined or disappeared.