African Americans began migrating to the Main Line in the 1890s to find positions in domestic service. As their numbers grew, African Americans settled in modest homes and neighborhoods on the Main Line and harnessed their resources to construct or purchase buildings that would serve as public spaces. African-American- owned buildings like club halls and churches emerged as anchors of community life, hosting gatherings that ranged from political rallies to social events. These sites also provided public spaces that allowed African Americans to develop and sustain local and regional networks.
Ownership of these spaces took on particular significance within the context of the Main Line where many African Americans rented their homes. Collective ownership of buildings allowed African Americans the opportunity to shape their physical space in a way they did not always have the opportunity to in their homes. In addition, these structures stood as physical testaments to the achievements of African Americans on the Main Line. Through its study of African American owned sites on the Main Line, this study probes larger questions about diversity in suburban spaces and the significance of the built environment in community formation.
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