This month we celebrate Black History. It is very important during this month that we take time to recognize the Black Americans that have come before us and celebrate their contributions and achievements that are a significant part of our history here in Columbia. Many Columbians are unaware of the rich history of the Black Business Community that existed here from the early 1900s through the late 1950s and early 1960s.
A Federal Program called Urban Renewal acquired the land these businesses were located on for city development and as a result, most of these businesses shut down or relocated and eventually ceased to exist. These businesses were lost to history except for stories being told by people whose ancestors owned businesses or visited these black businesses. The Historic Sharp End Business District was where most of these businesses were located.
The Sharp End Black Business District
From the early 1900s to the 1960s, the Sharp End business district was a city within a city for Columbia’s black community. Stretching from Fifth to Sixth streets on both sides of Walnut Street, Sharp End was a robust business center with black-owned restaurants, meeting halls, barber shops, bars and more.
In its prime, it was known as the cultural heart of the black community, which included churches, schools, homes and social clubs. Sharp End was all business: children were not allowed there without parental supervision until they turned 18.
Entering Sharp End without an adult was considered a rite of passage. Sharp End was a destination for visitors and the place for black adults to work, dine and socialize. It was demolished during urban renewal in the late 50’s to early 60’s, which suddenly and dramatically removed the nucleus of this self-contained black business community in Columbia.
The Sharp End was born as a place of commerce for blacks during its history. It provided a place of comfort for people to relax, shop and enjoy themselves without the binds of discrimination that was prevalent throughout the City during that time.