How and Why We’re Following in 4th Avenue Historic District’s Footsteps in Birmingham, Alabama

How and Why We’re Following in 4th Avenue Historic District’s Footsteps in Birmingham, Alabama

Mar 06, 2024

Yasmein James

By: Yasmein James 

We don’t have to know where you’re from to paint a picture of your neighborhood beauty store. We’ll forget the products for a second because those should change with demand. Instead, we’ll focus on the people in the store. 

In aisles, black and brown women – women who look like you – scan for hair products and accessories. And behind the counter are friendly faces from different races. 

It’s a shopping experience that every black and brown woman knows all too well. For many, it has become the norm. But that wasn’t always the case nor does it have to remain that way. 

Salim Holder, 4th Ave Market's CEO said that's why 4th Ave Market was founded. He and his business partner wanted to reinvent the shopping experience for the community by people from the community. They also wanted to create a means where the community can be more than participants in the $2.5B industry. 

“Although we can participate in many industries, we don’t own the industries,” said Holder. “Why does that dollar have to keep getting extracted from our community?” 

That question is the driving force behind 4th Ave Market. The same is true for the 4th Avenue Historic District, which was the inspiration behind the online beauty store. Located in Birmingham, it's been changing the shopping experience for the community since the early 1900s. It is the embodiment of “for us by us.” 

4th Ave Market recently traveled to Birmingham to gain a better understanding of the history of the community. While there, the team spoke with community members and residents who provided insight on the importance of the district. 

According to Darryl Washington, Director of Program Operations at Urban Impact Birmingham, Alabama once had the most African-Americans than any other state. As such, black-owned businesses could be found all over the city of Birmingham. However, with the rise of Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation, those businesses became a necessity. 

Better yet, Charles Woods III, Education Program Manager at Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, referred to those businesses as “an economic safe-haven.” 

“When you’re living in a segregated city like Birmingham — a place where black people couldn’t receive services from different departments not only from the city or government but in the individual realm —they had to do for self,” said Woods. “And the only way to do for self was to establish those businesses.” 

The 4th Avenue Historic District was (and still remains) a place where blacks can shop and see themselves reflected. That is true from the employees to the employers of the businesses. 

That's a luxury that lifetime resident Patricia Dailey Robinson said has made a major impact on her life. It’s one that many people have yet to experience despite the changing times. 

“We firmly believe that the next step for African-Americans is legacy building through family businesses and entrepreneurship,” said Washington. 

We agree. And it starts now. 

Did you know about the 4th Avenue Historic District in Birmingham, Alabama? Would anything have changed for you if the people who owned your neighborhood beauty store looked like you? Let us know on Instagram

Photo by Eloise Ambursley on Unsplash