Farish Street: A street that defines America?

A helpful MissPres reader sent me a link to a longform series in Curbed called “10 streets that define America,” with a teaser line, “What do America’s streets—and the people who inhabit them—say about the state of our country in 2016?” One of the ten streets is Jackson’s Farish Street, and the article is written by Richard Grant, author of the recently published Dispatches from Pluto. I have to admit, I defied all the buzz this last year and avoided reading Dispatches until very recently, rather weary of articles and books about Mississippi by curious “outsiders” who fly in for a few days or a week and think they get it. But once I read the first chapter, Grant won me over. A British journalist but longtime New York resident, Grant approaches the Mississippi Delta in Dispatches with patience and a desire to learn the complexities of the place: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright funny. His character sketches are clear-eyed, and he doesn’t sugar-coat or magnolia-coat hard truths, but his love for the people and the place shines through.

I think this same sensitivity comes through in his Curbed article, which includes some brilliant photography by Ashley Gates. Here’s an excerpt, and I encourage you to click through to the full article:


Photo by Ashley Gates

Customers place their lunch orders at the Big Apple Inn on Farish Street, a few blocks north of downtown Jackson, Mississippi: “One ear hot.” “Two ear mild, three smoke.” A dollar-fifty gets you a pig ear sandwich with sauce, or a smear of smoked sausage meat on a bun.

A light rain falls outside and drips through the roof. Paint is peeling off the walls. The women making sandwiches call everyone “baby” and work behind a cracked Perspex screen held together with duct tape.

Above the Big Apple is a small, derelict room with broken windows. It used to be the office of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, who was assassinated by a white supremacist in 1963. “The city wanted to buy the building, fix it up, and put a Medgar Evers museum upstairs,” says Geno Lee, the fourth-generation proprietor of the Big Apple Inn.

But the building’s owner wanted millions for a building appraised at $35,000, because of its historical value and future earning potential, and no one was willing to pay his price. “I haven’t made money here in years,” says Geno Lee. “I stay open for nostalgia’s sake. Right now, I’m ready for anything to happen down here, no matter what.”

Read more . . .

As you know, our own Suzassippi has been taking a closer look at the Farish Street neighborhood:

Categories: African American History, Jackson, Urban/Rural Issues


2 replies

  1. I have read many articles regarding Farish Street’s redevelopment and why it is the way it is today. The best explanation of what is going on is an article in Jackson Free Press, dated February 23, 2016 . The article tells of a very good plan to get businesses back to Farish Street. Accomplished developer Leroy C. Smith from Denver, Co, but who has Mississippi roots, spoke to Jackson Redevelopment Authority and the Farish Street Group. He gave detailed plans of how he could revive Farish Street the same way he did in Denver to a district very similar to Farish Street.

    I copied and pasted this from the February 23, 2016 JFP article. It sounds wonderful:
    “JRA’s commissioners mostly just listened as Smith talked about his vision for Farish Street. Phase I of his plan focuses on one block of Farish and a commitment of redeveloping six buildings, including a blues cafe, a country music bar, a microbrewery and three unnamed restaurants. Smith believes his team can complete Phase I by September 2016—in time for holiday shopping—if JRA approves a memorandum of understanding within 30 days. Phase II includes a boutique hotel as well as an innovation and training center.”

    September has come and gone and Farish Street’s future is still stuck in court. Hardheaded men make me so sad.


  2. I read the Curbed article yesterday after I saw it on your Twitter link, and though I had no idea who the author was, I did like what he said. It was eerily reminiscent. One thing I learned from doing qualitative analysis is to let the data speak for itself. The more of the “data” I uncover, the more I think Tony Dennis probably has it right. That is the story I want to write, but as one of those “outsiders” it is a tough decision. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

    Liked by 1 person

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