Denver's Five Points: The Harlem of the West

A look at the Harlem of the West. Denver's Five Points

Prior to 1910, more than 90% of the country’s African-American population lived in the South. Due to discrimination and limited economic opportunities, more than six million African Americans moved out of the south to urban areas across the country between 1916 and 1970. This mass southern exodus to urban Northeast, Midwest and West cities became known as the Great Migration.

In Denver, the neighborhood of Five Points emerged as a beneficiary of the south’s loss. Situated around the intersection of East 27th, Welton and North Washington streets, Five Points became known as the “Harlem of the West”. Located along the railroad, Denver attracted African-Americans seeking jobs at nearby railyards, creating a thriving community and commercial corridor along Welton Street.

Between 1950 and 1960, the neighborhood’s black population doubled, exceeding 30,000 residents. During its heyday, Welton was home to more than fifty bars and clubs, attracting popular traveling black musicians, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. Like many Jim Crow era black communities, Five Points declined in the years following integration as its economic base could no longer remain dependent on segregation. Largely gentrified, six blocks of the historic African-American neighborhood was designated as a cultural historic district in 2002. Designated for its geographic and historical significance, the cultural district is home to nine Contributing Buildings and intended to serve as the reinvigorated heartbeat of northeast Denver.

Next Page: Five Points Cultural Historic District Photo Tour