Live exhibit captures essence of former affluent Knoxville neighborhood

Today, the area is known as the Warehouse District, but some remember it as The Bottom before Urban Renewal prompted change.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 12:13 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - While construction on the new downtown stadium is making way for big changes, for some, it’s a reminder of the deconstruction of what was once known as an affluent Black community.

Today, the area is known as the Warehouse District, but some remember it as The Bottom before Urban Renewal prompted change. Making sure that change doesn’t go forgotten is community leader Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin. Before relocating and accepting a position as an assistant professor of Sociology at West Virginia University in Morgantown West Virginia, she curated “Streets & Feets: A Living Exhibit of the Bottom.”

“Everyone’s talking about urban renewal now and it’s picked up by all the media outlets, but it’s also a very superficial approach,” said El-Amin. “It’s very much like oh, this bad thing happened to Black people and the history is so bad. And then we kind of move on, right? And then it’s in the context of like this baseball stadium that people can’t just stop talking about, right? We don’t talk about the people in the bottom they don’t know who they are. They almost don’t exist.”

Extensive research and pictures share the story of what was once a thriving Black community. Each display breaks down different streets where families raised and taught their children.

The City of Knoxville recently loaned El-Amin a trolley to take folks on a tour of the former neighborhood. The tour offered attendants a chance to not only hear those stories, but share their own. While the neighborhood is no longer how many remember, El-Amin has opened a permanent space named after The Bottom in East Knoxville, which mirrors that same sense of community.

“We’re thinking about doing some financial literacy workshops. We have things for the art like book finding, pottery and those are often times free to the community,” Annastasia Williams, The Bottom’s book store manager said.

You can visit the free exhibit at The Bottom, which is located at 2340 E Magnolia Ave Knoxville, TN 37917.