Columbia community members commemorate Sharp End

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COLUMBIA - Columbia residents honored the historic Sharp End during a dedication ceremony unveiling a new sign.

Families of former black business owners from Sharp End attended the dedication ceremony, and some people considered it a reunion.

Sharp End Heritage Committee Chairman Jim Whitt said 18 people worked for a year to come up with a plan that would appropriately remember Sharp End and what it meant and what it still means to the black community.

Whitt recognized and welcomed the family members at the beginning of the event.

"This block on Walnut did not include all of Columbia's black-owned businesses, but it was certainly the heart of the black business life here in Columbia where people worked, they dined, they found entertainment and shared the latest news," Whitt said. "We are standing in the footprint of a legendary and historic Sharp End."

Businesses in the old Sharp End included barber shops, diners, and social halls. 

"Even though we can't see those buildings from the past, we having living reminders with us today. The people who grew up here who are part of the businesses and who have kept alive the memories of the Sharp End, Sharp End's proud era of success," Whitt said. 

Barbra Horrell reminisced about what Sharp End was like when she was a young girl. She was not old enough to be in that part of town, but she remembered walking around it on the way to the theater on weekends with her best friends.

She said she grew up hearing stories about Sharp End at family gatherings, and she and her friends could not wait to be able to go to Sharp End.

"Sharp End disappeared before we got here," Horrell said. "But that's ok, we know Sharp End. The businesses that were here were the economic energy of the black community. They supported our families."

"We have to show and identify and be proud of our heritage," Horrell said. "And if you look around there's no place in town that said anything about black heritage except the little sign that's on the Missouri Theatre back door that says ‘Blacks were permitted through these doors'. That's not history; that's a shame for Columbia."

"Sharp End was our main street before integration," Horrell said. " It was just as important to us in this area as Broadway was to everyone else on the other side."

Erma Officer was not an adult when she was in the Sharp End area, but she was an exception because her mother was a business owner. Her mother owned Vi's Café.

"They would come to her restaurant because they couldn't go to any of the restaurants other than Vi's Café," Officer said. "It was a very segregated community but here was a community of love, respect, where people respected other people."

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid said the dedication was to commemorate a culture that survived painful times.

There was a reception at City Hall.

Horrell said they wanted to make sure their kids and future generations know that they have a place in history that was theirs, that they can be proud that their parents and grandparents were a part of.

 

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