Black History : Rochester's Black Wall Street

February 22, 2018

There was a time when Rochester, N.Y. had it’s own “Black Wall Street” but it was known as the “Negro Business” or “Negro Business League” dating back to the 1920’s.

( Reign) For me this is fascinating because Rochester, N.Y.,  is rich in history but, who knew there was a moment in time black folks patronized black owned businesses and kept money flowing in the community. I’m sure the black dollar circulated more than 6 hours in the community back then.

Did you know the average time today the black dollar circulates in the black community is 6 hours?

In 1926, Jenton’s Cash Grocery, which was on Spring St. sold “Southern Produce” that included salt pork, black eyed peas, marrow fat and kidney beans. They even sold cigars and beauty products. There was Gibson Hotel and Apartments and Mrs. B. Moss an Agent for Black and Brown Beauty Creations, and Mrs. Louis Pidgeon Beauty Parlor who did weaving (hair weave) back in 1926!

Other businesses were H.B. Clayborn Custom Tailor, they even pressed your suit while you wait for both ladies and gentlemen. From printers, art studio’s, mechanics, contractors, jewelers, to the city’s first African-American architect Thomas Boyde Jr. Most of the services needed in the black community could be provided by black businesses.

In 1939, there were insurance companies offering automobile coverage, casualty, sick, and life insurance. There were coal dealers, physicians, surgeons, real estate companies, liquor stores, and many other business that today in this same city may be a challenge to find black owners.

I know this may be hard to fathom but our very own “Black Wall Street” really did exist right here in Rochester!

To see photos and the actual directories click: Negro Business League 1926 and Negro Directory 1939-40

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