Black Business District and Train Station

An African-American History of Downtown Greenville

Black Business District and Train Station

Greenville, South Carolina 29617, United States

Created By: Brandon Inabinet


I'm sorry to say that you can't really see one of my favorite sights of the tour. Some of my favorite memories as a child were of going to the train station with family. We didn't ride the train much but we went around to the different black-owned businesses that were everywhere around the district. There weren't many white people around and if they were, it was for the train.

On the corner of East McBee Ave, where Spring Street turns into Falls Street is where the station used to be. About two blocks from Main Street, our black community had a safe place to conduct business and connect with each other.

I remember my parents talking about S.C. Franks and how good of a person he was because of how many people he helped. When my little sister got sick and we couldn't really afford the healthcare at the time, Mr. Franks helped work something out for us so she could get the help she needed.

On the corner of Falls Street and Broad Street you can see John Wesley United Methodist Church. Sadly, this is the only part of the district that is still here. Although the congregation is much older, in the 1890s with Reverend Minus, they started the Greenville Academy for Black children (which became Sterling High School) and in 1900 built this impressive brick structure downtown to signal the rise of the Black community.

Right next to it was the Phyllis Wheatly Center, which was a social hub for our young African-American community ever since 1921 by Ms. Hattie Duckett. I went to a couple dances there and had a great time.

The demolition of these black business and cultural districts shows a broader pattern. Certainly our area wasn't as nice as Main Street, but similar to any smaller town in the South, it had everything you needed and it was ours. I can't put into words how important it is for a community to have a place you can be yourself. Greenville has fewer and fewer places like that.

Suggested Resources:

Bainbridge, Judith. "Hattie Logan Duckett Created the Phillis Wheatley Center." The Greenville News. June 21, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2019.

"Hattie Logan Duckett." South Carolina African American History Calendar. Accessed March 23, 2019.

"Phillis Wheatley Community Center." WPA Federal Writers' Project Materials on African American Life in South Carolina. Accessed March 23, 2019.

Rogers, Eryn. "New Greenville Police Substation Hopes to Build Trust in Community." WSPA. February 04, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2019.

Bauer, Boris. “School Exhibit Brings Back 'Sterling' Memories By Kathy Spencer-Mention." Sunday, August 29, 2004. Sterling High School Greenville, South Carolina History.

Davis, Angelia. “Black History Month: John Wesley UMC Played Key Role for Sterling High.The Greenville News, The Greenville News, 10 Feb. 2017.

United Methodist Communications. “John Wesley United Methodist Church (Greenville, SC) - Find-A-Church.” The United Methodist Church.

John Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church. National Register Properties in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

This point of interest is part of the tour: An African-American History of Downtown Greenville


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