The Bottoms inspired a local creative to honor the hundreds of Black businesses and residents who were uprooted in the 1950s Urban Renewal destruction of Black wealth.
“Gay Street is to Knoxville what Fifth Avenue is to New York. Something special, yes? And it looked the same. But Vine Street, where I would sneak to the drugstore to buy Screen Stories and watch the men drink wine and play pool-all gone. A wide, clean military-looking highway has taken its place. Austin Homes is cordoned off. It looked like a big prison. The Gem Theatre is now some sort of nightclub and Mulvaney Street is gone. Completely wiped out. Assassinated along with the old people who made it live.” –from the book, “400 Mulvaney Street” by Nikki Giovanni
Knoxville, Tenn. (October 1, 2021) — The Bottom, a community space and Black bookstore for Black culture, and creativity is hosting the Grand Opening of its new location at 2340 E. Magnolia Avenue. The celebration will offer a day of family-friendly activities and performances from 10 am to 7 pm, Saturday, October 9th.
The new home of The Bottom offers an expanded bookstore featuring Black authors, a tea room, a craft studio, and a podcast studio. Many of the previously established events such as Grab “N Go Books, author book signings, children’s storytime, writing workshops, monthly book subscriptions, Friday evening food and fellowship, and more. (For health safety, events maybe in-person, pick-up, or virtual.)
“To The Bottom, owning this space means much more than having more room —it represents tangible progress in addressing the destruction of urban renewal and subsequent cycles of displacement,” Director Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin, Ph.D. Sociology, UT. Everyone is welcomed to attend the celebration and reclamation of Black space and place in an East Knoxville business district. The event will include:
● Tree planting ceremony, 10 am
● Storytime for children, 11 am
● Card and game tournaments, 12 -1 pm
● Community quilt making 1 -2 pm
● A book signing & discussion with poet Khalissa Rhae feat. Black Atticus, 3 – 4:15 pm
● Comedy Sets by local performers, 4:30 pm
● Music provided by FRVR Recording, 5 – 7 pm
The purchase of this building was made possible by the many contributions, supporters and community members. The Bottom bookstore and creative space first opened n Janaruy 2020, at 202 Randolph Street, a location once boarded by The Bottoms, which was an established progressive Black community of residents and businesses in the 1920s up to the 1950s Urban Renewal project that decimated the community. The name, “The Bottom” was chosen as a tribute to The Bottoms.
About The Bottom: Named after the first community in Knoxville to be devastated through urban renewal, was of black residents, homes and businesses. The Bottom emerged from a local Black collective addressing race and place. The Bottom tackles the legacy of displacement by honoring the beloved community it serves. With the belief that Blackness is relational and dynamic, The Bottom stands as a multi-use place to foster change and togetherness. As a community center and Black-affirming bookshop, The Bottom is building community, celebrating culture, and engaging the creativity of Black people in Knoxville.