African-American Business History

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The City of Rock Hill's African-American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee has helped collect this history of African-American businesses in Rock Hill, SC. The African-American Business District Monument at the corner of West Black Street and Dave Lyle Boulevard was established to help honor and preserve this history.

Once a thriving business area for the African-American community, the entire block from West Black Street to Wilson Street was demolished during the 1970s for urban renewal through federal grant funding.

 Gathings Drug Store

Gathings Drugstore

(Image courtesy Mara Kurtz, Mara Kurtz Photography, NYC)

Downtown 1974

Downtown Rock Hill, ca 1974, before West Black Street & Trade Street Demolition

(From The Herald)


1949 Sanborn Map - West Black Street

West Black Street ca 1949

(Courtesy City of Rock Hill Map Collection)


 Emmett Scott HS Band

The Emmett Scott High School Marching Band, directed by Frontis Brooks, 1952

(Courtesy Historic Rock Hill)



Kimberly P. Johnson has recently written a powerful and meaningful book entitled, No Fear for Freedom: The Story of the Friendship 9, the famous history of several Civil Rights Movement activists in Rock Hill.  For more information about this book, visit

The South Carolina Department of Archives & History has updated the Teacher's Guide to African American Historic Places in South Carolina.  The revised and updated guide has recently added new historic marker sites and recent listings in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Every town and city has a Main Street, but where do other street names come from?  Before towns were developed, roads were named for the families who owned the lands.  In the City of Rock Hill, Main Street divided the lands owned by the Alexander Black family (Black Street) and the Ann Hutchison White family (White Street).

Afro-American Insurance Building    The Afro-American Insurance Company Building, located at 558 Dave Lyle Boulevard, was designed and built ca 1909 by William W. Smith, a true craftsman and brick mason of incredible skill based in Charlotte, NC. Other buildings designed by Smith include Goler and Ballard Halls on the campus of Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC, and the Mecklenburg Investment Company Building, the first office building in Charlotte specifically built by black business owners for their business concerns. The Afro-American Insurance Company was one of several insurance companies owned and operated by blacks in the southeast.  This building housed a number of black-owned businesses throughout its history, and remains as a significant architectural example of the early 20th century.
Federal money was provided to improve the infrastructure of downtown areas throughout the United States in order to eliminate blight and provide improved living conditions for residents.  The unfortunate result was the loss of entire business districts that had served communities for close to 100 years.  As can be seen in the photo, the entire African American Business District had been demolished. To the left at the time this photo was taken, the new US Post Office facility can be seen.
   W Black Aeiral 1970s

The African-American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee is interested in further research.  If you have information to share or questions about this group, please contact Committee Chair, Dr, Gladys Feely Robinson, at 803-207-5236, or Vice-Chair, Sandra Oborokumo, at 803-322-5798.


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