Above is a composite view of Downtown Danville, Kentucky in the early 1900’s and after redevelopment, included also is the historical marker for the AA Business District of years past.
This is the city where I was born, and a place where several African American families settled after the Civil War. It is also the city where my paternal Bright families established their homes.
My great great grandparents, William T Bright, 1823 – 1920 and Candis Culbertson 1824 and their children; Frances, Benjamin, Henry, John and Robert R Bright (my great grandfather) 1858 – 1945 and his wife Betty (Givens) Bright. Their children were, Joseph Sampson 1883 -1934 and James Walker Bright (my grandfather) 1887 -1938 and his wife Emma Eliza (Jones) Bright 1889 -1957 and their only child, Joseph B Bright ( my father) 1911 – 1972.
The Kentucky Historical Society indicates that “After the Civil War, African American Kentuckians gravitated to rural hamlets, towns, and cities across the state for better economic opportunities, group protection, and a sense of solidarity. Due to segregation, however, many of the towns and cities developed separate neighborhoods that provided housing, goods, and services to African Americans.
Black businesses in these neighborhoods, including insurance agencies, funeral homes, restaurants, hotels, barber and beauty shops, clothing stores, and doctor and dentist offices, served their communities and established strong personal relationships with their patrons. These neighborhoods also included community organizations, churches, schools, civic and fraternal groups, theaters, dance halls, and sports teams that enriched residents’ lives.
During segregation, one African American business district in Danville was located on 2nd Street and faced the Ephraim McDowell House. There, businesses and organizations like the Elite (taxi) Cab Company, DeLuxe Barbershop, The Hollywood Restaurant, Singleton’s Super Market, Richardson Brothers billiards, and Doric Lodge No. 18, provided the black community with opportunities to own, serve, and support their local population.
When racial segregation ended, many of these black businesses that were unable to compete with other businesses closed. In the 1970s, with funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Danville engaged in an urban renewal project that razed all of Danville’s historic African American Business District on 2nd Street at Constitution Square. Although urban renewal removed the physical traces of this neighborhood, it did not wipe away the fond memories that Danville had of its African American Business District”.
Per recorded deeds, my family purchased property at 203 E Walnut Street in 1914 for $945 cash and owned and operated the Bright’s Funeral Home there until it was sold in 1948 for $10,000 to William Johnson, after the death of my great grandfather. I wonder where/how they accumulated the cash paid for the property. My great grandfather was a stonecutter and I assume that cutting headstones is how they accomplished the purchase. A picture of the only business remnant I could find is shown below and indicates the name of the “new owner” along with the family name.