An African-American History of Downtown Greenville

As Gentrification Lets us Forget, We Remember

An African-American History of Downtown Greenville

Greenville, South Carolina 29617, United States

Created By: Brandon Inabinet

Tour Information

My name is Jesse and I have lived in Greenville, South Carolina my entire life. Born in 1951 in Southernside, an area actually just north of downtown, I have watched Greenville transform from a segregated town to a lively city over the past seven decades. Greenville is truly an exciting place to be.

On the other hand, there's also a sense of loss. We've gone from a small (if divided) family to a place that's hard to recognize some days, with so many folks moving in and so many old things being knocked down and rebuilt.

I'll show you some of the sites important to the Black community. This history is my heritage, and it needs to be told. As an African-American young man growing up during the civil rights movement, I have personally seen the hardships our community has endured. Greenville has changed in many ways but like every one of us, it can always grow and learn from its past. Join me as we take a stroll through the Greenville I know and the Greenville we can become.

[This tour is given by a character named Jesse, an African-American man who has grown up in Greenville, South Carolina. Written by students at Furman University of various ages and races as part of a Communication Studies course, this unified point of view can help better introduce local insights historical sites in Greenville during the Civil Rights Movement. Tour takers may want to only visit 6-13 in the center of downtown, rather than the longer walks from site 1 (Sterling High School) into the city and beyond the city to the old library location and cemetery; or take a bicycle or car to the outlying places.]

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

Sterling High School, my own alma mater, holds its place in Greenville’s history as the first black high public school in our city.  It was established in 1929, and it was influential in the integration of Greenville’s public facilitie... Read more
Although it stopped operations in 1948, before I was even born, the Working Benevolent Society Hospital was regarded as “one of the most modern institutions in the South for colored people” at the time of its opening in 1928.  During ... Read more
Here stands the boyhood home of one of my long-time heroes: Reverend Jesse Jackson. Reverend Jackson was an iconic civil rights leader who founded PUSH in 1971 and pressed for broader employment opportunities for African-Americans. In the 1... Read more
The Claussen Bakery is one of the most important historical sites in Greenville, especially for the African-American community. During the 1960s Civil Right Movement, the bakery heavily favored white workers and the African-American workers... Read more
  Originally established in 1871, Allen Temple Church’s historical journey in Greenville started in 1929 after being built by Juan Benito Molina who was the only black architect in Greenville in the early twentieth century. I grew up att... Read more
Josh White, a world-renowned blues musician, was born right here in Greenville and grew up poor like many of us. At only eight year old, Josh led blind musicians to and from gigs for four dollars each, sometimes as far away as Florida and T... Read more
The old Greenville courthouse holds its place in Greenville and South Carolina’s history for housing the last lynching case. This disgraceful act occurred on February 17, 1947, and thirty-one white men were arrested for the murder of Will... Read more
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 blac... Read more
Springfield Baptist was the site for many important meetings throughout the Civil Rights Movement and became the NAACP headquarters in Greenville, SC. In fact, it was recently added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail as the only nationally sign... Read more
Located on the corner of West Washington and North Main street, you are standing where we Greenville locals used to shop at Woolworth’s. Inspired by the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins, Woolworth’s became a national place to challeng... Read more
From the 1940’s through the 1970’s, this was the home of the main branch of the Greenville County Library in the old Park School building. Although all that can be seen today is a parking lot, if you scroll through the pictures you wil... Read more
One thousand four hundred graves of the Black community lie in this cemetery, begun in 1884. During the time of slavery, African-Americans would typically be buried at churches in unmarked graves near their slave masters or would be buried... Read more


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