November 11 - May 30, 2024
From the African American Museum:
“Central Track: Crossroads of Deep Ellum unravels the growth and demise of North Central Avenue, in the area known as Central Track or Stringtown, which connects Deep Ellum to what was called Freedman Town after the Civil War. The area was later renamed Short North Dallas then Old North Dallas before being identified as Uptown.
Central Track and Deep Ellum were places where day laborers were picked up and dropped off, often for work in the cottonfields. The expanding railroads brought commercial and industrial development and a thriving entertainment sector.
The neighborhoods surrounding Central Avenue boasted vibrant African American communities and an array of Black-owned businesses, from shoeshine stands and street vendors to variety shows and movie theaters to music shops, drug stores, cafés, and most notably, the landmark building at 2551 Elm Street (the headquarters of the Colored Knights of Pythias). Opened in 1916, the building, designed by William Sidney Pittman— the first African American architect to practice in Texas – was a center of community activity, which provided offices for doctors, dentists, lawyers and other Black professionals.
The exhibition raises questions about cultural identity difficult to reconcile, juxtaposing the harsh realities of racism to the vitality of a community that struggled to survive. While few photos have been found, numerous newspaper accounts bring to life a world little known and often overlooked that was destroyed in the 1940s to make way for North Central Expressway and the I-345 overpass.
The newspaper clippings about Central Track and Deep Ellum in this exhibition appeared in white and Black newspapers around the U.S., most notably The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Express and Indianapolis Freeman. Many conveying racist stereotypes, the clippings establish the cultural context in which they were written and illustrated. In contrast to the racist content are advertisements and notices published in the same newspapers that reveal the enduring resilience of the African American community.
The co-curators of the Central Track: Crossroads of Deep Ellum exhibition are Alan Govenar and Phillip Collins. Major sponsors are the Summerlee Foundation; African American Museum, Dallas; and Documentary Arts. Season sponsors are Oncor, The Eugene McDermott Foundation, Joe Atkins Realty, City of Dallas Office of Arts & Culture, NBC 5/Telemundo, HEB, Comerica Bank, Wells Fargo, and Texas Capital Bank.”
On View: November 11, 2023 | 12–5 pm
3536 Grand Avenue Fair Park
Dallas, 75315-0153 TX