Marion Post Wolcott/Library of Congress
Going to the movies at an (of course) integrated theater in Belzoni, Mississippi, in 1939. Belzoni has no movie theater today.
The same thing happened in my mid-Atlantic medium size city. After the "riots" following the MLK assassination, all the worst fears of white folks were suddenly reality. All the downtown theaters closed, all the department stores and 5&10's shuttered. Malls in the suburbs had private security forces that could control and eject the unwelcome. Our beautiful art deco library on the downtown square became inaccessible -- and my parents wouldn't allow us kids to take the bus there anyway. The city was dangerous and we never went there anymore. Gentrification of the outskirts helped a little, but the center of the city lost its heart. Attempts are being made to reclaim some of the old structures and re-infuse life into the main streets, but the affluent suburbanites (white and black) seem not a little disinterested.
And this from @pezdrake:
Eufala, AL has a beautiful old theater that had the same issue. When there I asked my friend from the town about why it wasnt' in operation any more. "No one wanted to go there after integration." "Wasn't that like forty years ago?"I asked. She shrugged. "I guess."
Two more responses -- including an important, thoughtful dissent -- after the jump.
@Downriverlady adds this:
I grew up in Detroit and that same mindset is still in force today. Once it became obvious that equal access was not just a fad, that change was here to stay, the new plan was to move your business out and leave for the suburbs. Public pools shut down, movie theaters, schools shut down, stores left and it became vogue to leave town and brag about how many years it had been since you last stepped foot in the city. Neighborhoods changed overnight, literally. In a way it was kind of funny, if you wanted to live in all white area, all a black family had to do was visit any real estate Open house in that area and wait a week. For sale signs would pop up like weeds all over, from one sign to a couple of dozen. It was called Block Busting. A smart agent would make a fortune by hinting that Blacks were looking to move in. And this was all before the riot, before MLK marched here. We could start class in our new school on a Monday with only 4 Black kids and within that week there would be 20. Go to bed with white neighbors next door and wake up with black ones in the morning. No joke.
Or maybe it's just the march of progress, so to speak. @John writes:
I don't wish to diminish or disclaim race and racism because it is a very important factor in American Culture. It's critical to understand it's role in the development of our country, especially as it relates to things like the article mentions.
It's also important to understand that technology and prosperity drove many of the changes as well. People did "give up on public places" as our culture changed to value privacy more than community. (Thanks, to a large degree, on the automobile) This happened along side of whites not wanting to integrate, especially in the south. So it's difficult to say "this is why" or "that is why"...because it's a whole mess of cultural/sociological changes happening at the same time.
While it is lamentable that there is no public theater, that's mode of entertainment has been dieing for decades, slowly going the way of "drive-in movies," replaced by home theaters. Speaking personally, I'd rather watch a movie, at home, in widescreen HD, with surround sound. The "theater experience" is over-rated these days, with all the rude people, and high prices.