"THE WEDGE," HANNIBAL'S PROMINENT BLACK-OWNED BUSINESS DISTRICT FOR MORE THAN 80 YEARS.
It is an interesting irony that African American businesses in the early twentieth century benefited greatly from the unlikely foe of segregation. Jim Crow laws in housing contributed to self-contained neighborhoods where African American businesses and professionals flourished as they catered to the economic needs of their neighbors. Most of these structures have been demolished or significantly changed.
*Indicates that the structure still stands.
AT THE WEDGE, LOCATED WHERE BOADWAY AND MARKET STREETS CONVERGED, MOST OF BUSINESSES ON THE BROADWAY SIDE WERE OWNED AND/OR OPERATED BY AFRICAN AMERICANS.
ABOVE: THIS MEMORIAL PLAQUE, DONATED BY THE CITY OF HANNIBAL, IS ALL THAT REMAINS OF THE WEDGE. IT PAYS HOMAGE TO THE MANY ENTREPRENEURS OPERATING IN THE AREA FROM 1920 TO 1984, JUST BEFORE ITS DEMOLITION BEGAN. THE MEMORIAL WAS ERECTED IN 1985 BY THE CITY OF HANNIBAL IN RESPONSE TO COMMUNITY EFFORTS LED BY REVEREND MINNIE SMITH OF WILLOW STREET CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
In the post-Civil War years immediately following emancipation, African American men, women, and children worked as farm hands, laborers, and servants for white Hannibalians. Census records from 1930 indicate that almost 90% of black women in the labor force were employed as domestics, nurses, nannies, maids, or laundresses. Black residents helped shape the city's economy and infrastructure despite the fact that the prejudice and discrimination they faced remained a not-so-subtle undercurrent. To the left, this document from the 1927 Colored Directory is just short of amazing.