Celebrating African American entrepreneurs of the 50s and 60s
CHESTERTOWN — Thanks to a Maryland Traditions preservation grant, RiverArts is able to stage an exhibition to celebrate local black entrepreneurs of the 1950s and 1960s.
The show will open Friday in RiverArts’ studio gallery.
According to a news release, curators Lani Hall Seikaly and Airlee Ringgold Johnson share the stories of 25 black business owners, their family, employees and clients of businesses open during that time through videos, photographs and text.
More than 15 black businesses alone were located on a two-block section of Cannon Street, which residents described as a busy downtown commerce area during the day and a bustling place on Friday and Saturday nights.
The iconic Charlie Graves’ Uptown Club on Calvert Street added to the vitality of the time by bringing in big name singers including James Brown, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Patti Labelle, Etta James, Ottis Redding and Ray Charles to perform.
According to the news release, the exhibition features stories about thriving black businesses, the families and friends that patronized them and the compassionate and resourceful entrepreneurs that created them.
Glimpses of segregation and its impact are laced through the stories as well as the challenges of transitioning to integration. Narrators share that the closing of the businesses was a loss to the black community that is still felt today.
For more information visit www.chestertownriverarts.org call RiverArts at 410-7786300.