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Black Arts and Culture

At Portsmouth Museum: Black Business District Exhibit Opening

A new exhibit at the Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum opening on October 14 will examine a few of the Black businesses that existed in the city’s Black business district during the mid 20th century and their role in the community. South and Effingham Streets comprised the heart of Portsmouth’s segregated African-American business district that provided everyday resources such as barbers and doctors. Enterprising businesspeople in Portsmouth, as in other cities where segregation existed, opened shops and businesses where Black people were welcome. These businesses, often clustered together, became centers of social and community life.

The exhibit features some of these businesses to include Linwood Copeland Bailey’s barber shop, where I.C. Norcom High School alumni from the football team frequently gathered to discuss politics. Also, exhibited is The Mutual Pharmacy and Drug Company which offered medical services and pharmacy supplies at a time when African-American Portsmouth residents might otherwise have to travel to Norfolk to see a doctor.

This exhibit, along with the existing exhibit about the history of the Community Library itself, will remain on display at the museum through 2017. The Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum is located at 904 Elm Street, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704, and is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays from noon-5 p.m. through November 19. The museum will reopen for the 2017 season in mid-January. Groups of 15 people or more may call (757) 393-8591 for a group appointment. Museum admission is free; free parking is available behind the building; enter via the entrance to the Portsmouth Neighborhood Facility Recreation Center at 900 Elm Street.

The Portsmouth Museums is a city-run group of five museums offering cultural, educational, and historical experiences, including the Children’s Museum of Virginia, the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, the Lightship Portsmouth Museum, and the Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum. For more information, please call (757) 393-5258, or visit

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