Deep Ellum and Central Track
A mile east of the School Book Depository in downtown Dallas lies a
section of the city called Deep Ellum, a mottled array of old brick
structures, where wild graffiti and gaudy murals decorate the walls of
trendy shops, loft apartments, restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries,
and tattoo studios. The area is also home to more conventional
endeavors, including a century-old meat market, auto repair shops and a
sheet-metal business owned by a Holocaust survivor.
Because of the area’s long association with blues and jazz musicians,
Deep Ellum has been shrouded in myth and misconceptions which obscure
its actual history. Alan Govenar and Jay Brakefield—using oral
histories, old newspapers and photographs, city directories and maps, as
well as more traditional public records and secondary sources—reveal
another side of Deep Ellum which includes Central Track (formerly called
Central Avenue), an area lined with black-owned businesses which served
both black and white patrons during its heyday in the 1920s and 30s.
In the Deep Ellum and Central Track areas, African Americans and whites,
primarily Eastern European Jews, operated businesses from the late 19th
to the mid-20th centuries, creating a unique social climate where
cultural interaction took place. Much of the information in the book is
presented through the stories of remarkable individuals, including
professionals, pawnbrokers and other merchants, police officers,
criminals, and the blues and jazz musicians who had a lasting impact on
American popular music.
Chapters include: Deep Ellum: Fact and Fiction; Deep Ellum Blues: Song
of the Street; Black Dallas; The Architect of Deep Ellum; Jewish
Pawnbrokers and Merchants of Deep Ellum; Blind Lemon Jefferson: The Rise
of Downhome Blues; Buster Smith: Dallas Jazz Goes to Kansas City and New
York; Smokey Montgomery: Country Crossover; Benny Binion: Gambling and
Policy Racket; “Deep Ellum’s Just Too Doggone Slow”: Decline and
Out of print.