Black History Month: The history and future of MLK Jr. Blvd. in Savannah

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 11:38 AM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Richard Shinhoster is the owner of Diaspora Market Place located on MLK Jr. Blvd.

“I started out here on MLK back in 68- it was West Broad Street and it was still a lively business district,” said Shinhoster.

Those who experienced it say West Broad Street was the place to be for Black people in Savannah.

Black businesses were thriving, and you could always feel a sense of community.

“It was said if you wanted to see anybody in this community just come and stand right at the intersection of West Broad and Gadsden,” said Shinhoster. " And at sometime during the day the person you needed would pass by”.

Vaughnette Goode- Walker spends a lot of her time at the civil rights museum on MLK. Telling people all about West Broad Street and the magical place it once was.

“West Broad Street history is important to the entire community not just to the Black community,” said Walker. “It was a melting pot of businesses and residents all around these neighborhoods as well as the entrance to the city of Savannah. It was the transportation hub”

“It was 1991 and a lot of cities in the state of Georgia were honoring Dr. King and of course Savannah was no different,” explained Walker.

West Broad got a new name and new trends were becoming a regular occurrence.

“The beginning of gentrification, crime came through, people were doing a lot of murders, shootings, and drugs, MLK Jr. Blvd. started to do a transformation,” explained Detric Legget.

This trend happening on MLK Jr. Blvds all over the country.

Businesses were moving out and others were closing for good.

The city of Savannah made a promise to work to revitalize the neighborhood. A process Shinhoster said is moving slowly.

“I would like to see more and more of a variety of African owned businesses return to this area and reclaim their heritage,” said Shinhoster.

District 2 Alderman Detric Legget says progress may be slow, but things are happening.

“We started with the streetscape, then we started with business partners, then we moved on to the church community, and housing authority,” said Legget.

He went on to say next steps are making sure housing in the area stays affordable and the city works on creating partnerships with minority businesses.