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Community Spotlight: Black History Month Initiatives on Main Street

February 4, 2021 | Community Spotlight: Black History Month Initiatives on Main Street | By: Abby Armato, Communications Coordinator, NMSC | 

It's Black History Month! While this month is a time to honor the past, it is also a time to celebrate the history being made every day. Main Street programs around the Network have created engaging and COVID-safe ways to honor and celebrate the histories and lives of Black Americans in their commercial districts. Learn more about their initiatives below:

History in the Making Series. The Richmond Main Street Initiative in Richmond, California, is putting its local Black-owned small businesses front and center this month in a new series called “History in the Making.” This email series spotlights a Black business owner coupled with a story about Black history in the Richmond business district. Their first spotlight featured business owner Osaretin Ogbebor of The Rich Clothing Company. Mr. Ogbebor’s spotlight was paired with a story about downtown Richmond’s first Black-owned business: Cotright Grocery, established in 1954. See their initiative in action.

Did you know? Dr. Martin Luther King stopped at the Easter Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond during his first visit to California. Learn more.

History Spotlights on Social Media. Downtown Greensboro in Georgia is honoring the month by celebrating local Black history on their social media channels. These history spotlights are a mix of both biographies of people connected to the town and archival photos. For instance, the Main Street program kicked off the month by spotlighting blues musician Saunders Terrell, famously known as Sonny Terry, who was born in Greensboro in 1911. See their initiative in action.

Did you know? In 2019, the Green County African American Museum in Greensboro, Georgia, learned of an African American burial ground just on the other side of the historic cemetery’s wall. The museum has been working to uncover the stories of these hundreds of graves, which include formerly enslaved members of the community. Learn more.

Quotes Around Town. Downtown Metuchen, New Jersey, has partnered with the Metuchen Human Relations Committee for Metuchen’s celebration of Black History Month this year. To celebrate, the Main Street program has created posters with quotes from prominent Black figures from LL Cool J to Katherine Johnson. These posters also feature a blurb about each speaker’s life. See their initiative in action.

Did you know? Metuchen-born Thomas Mundy Peterson was the first Black American to vote after the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted in 1870. Learn more.

Video Series Premier. To celebrate Black History Month, Downtown Inc., the Main Street program in York, Pennsylvania, will be premiering its new video series: “Downtown York Celebrates Black History Month: A Community Conversation.” The new series will be screened throughout the month of February, with the first of the series premiering Thursday, February 4th. This first film features Richard Craighead, the incoming York NAACP President and founder of Inclusive Arts Movement York, as he shares his story, where he finds inspiration, and his hopes for the future of the community. See their initiative in action.

Did you know? The Underground Railroad ran through York County, Pennsylvania. Learn more.

Black History Self-Guided Tours. Main Street communities around the nation are showcasing local Black history through self-guided walking trails. This year, the Main Street program in Elgin, Texas, launched a new Black history self-guided tour, leading participants around the district to spotlight Black-owned businesses, explore the history of buildings, and amplify the message of art installations. To promote this new walk tour, the Main Street program will be printing out posters that include a QR code linking to a PDF of the tour to be displayed at each of the featured sites. In Winchester, Kentucky, the Main Street program is spotlighting the town’s African American Heritage Trail, featuring makers throughout the downtown that highlight the local accomplishments and history of the Black community.

Did you know? According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Booker T. Washington Initiative, in 2019, "The number of African American-owned businesses here in Texas over a 10-year period more than doubled, from 88,000 to a little bit more than 200,000.” Learn more.

Celebrating Black Love. The Black Cultural Zone in Oakland, California, is putting Black love front and center with a month-long lineup of community events. They’re kicking off the month with the return of their Akoma Market: a certified farmer’s market that highlights local Black and Brown farmers, restaurants, creatives, and organizations. In addition to showing local Black-owned businesses some love, the Black Cultural Zone will be hosting a drive-in movie event where the community will pick their favorite Black love movie. Plus! The Main Street program has partnered with The Black Thought Project to create an interactive art installation for Black youth to express their thoughts with the community. These amazing events are coupled with daily posts on social media spotlighting stories of Black leaders and history. See their initiatives in action.

Did you know? The Black Panther Party, originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was started in Oakland, California, in 1966. Learn more

How is your community celebrating Black History Month? Let us know by tagging us with #WeAreMainStreet on social media or emailing us at And be sure to download our shareable social media graphics to start celebrating the month in your own district!