"Little Africa"

Historical marker #2074 in Jefferson County commemorates the history of the orignal African American section of Parkland.

The boundaries of the community known as “Little Africa” in Jefferson County vary depending on the source and the era being discussed. At times, it has been described as reaching from South Western Parkway in the west, to Wilson Avenue in the east and from Virginia Avenue in the north, to Algonquin Parkway in the south. More modest boundaries stretch west of 32nd and south of Garland Avenue. Following the Civil War and subsequent Emancipation, the area became known as “Needmore” as thousands of freedmen and freedwomen settled in the low-lying region. Its lack of elevation made the region prone to flooding and sanitation issues. Although some residents were able to construct sturdy housing for themselves and their families, many structures were built of flimsy, cheap materials and quickly became dilapidated. The “black Parkland,” as the area came to be called, stood in sober juxtaposition to the ornate mansions and beautifully landscaped streets of “white Parkland.”

By the twentieth century, the name “Little Africa” had supplanted “Needmore” and local leaders undertook concerted neighborhood improvement efforts. Educator Joseph S. Cotter and Dr. A.J. Duncan, for example, worked with the Parkland Improvement Club to add mailboxes and sidewalks and by cleaning and leveling roads. Stately homes and community institutions like the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church contributed to the growing community of seven hundred homes. By the middle of the twentieth century, the neighborhood had taken on a different moniker, known now as “Southwick,” and material conditions deteriorated. Calls for “urban renewal” took on increased volume by the 1950s and eventually the implementation of several public housing initiatives. Redevelopment of the area continued into the twenty-first century.

The marker marker reads:

Located west of 32nd and south of Garland Ave., "Little Africa" was original African American section of Parkland. Settled in 1870s, African Americans first called it "Needmore." "Little Africa" evolved from a shantytown into a thriving community by 1920, with several hundred homes, six churches, and various businesses and schools. Presented by African American Heritage Foundation.

(Reverse) "Little Africa" embodied the black self-help ethic. The Parkland Improvement Club helped to add items such as cinder walks and mailboxes to the community. The town of "Little Africa" disappeared ca. 1948 when work began on the Cotter Homes Project, named for early resident, poet, and educator Joseph S. Cotter (1861-1949). Presented by African American Heritage Foundation.

The marker was erected in 2003.