A new app that leads listeners on a walking tour is bringing the history of High Point’s Washington Street to life for tourists in the area.
More than 30 years after the Civil War, the Supreme Court argued that separate rail cars for Blacks and whites were equal, leading to its “separate but equal” ruling. This opened the floodgates for state and local segregation efforts across the country — “Jim Crow Laws” as they were known — including separate commercial districts. In High Point, for generations, Washington Street filled that need for the Black community.
Historian Glenn Chavis hosts the High Point Museum’s app tour which begins at the corner of Washington and Centennial.
"Somehow or another, Centennial became the dividing line between the races," he says. "It’s amazing how you can put a street in and all of the sudden it changes the complexion of everything. The street was created in 1860, and 100 years later, there were 54 Black businesses in a four-block area. We had everything we wanted, and we spent our money in this area."
Chavis was born and raised in High Point. The 83-year-old recalls his light-skinned grandfather being mistakenly admitted to the whites-only hospital for emergency surgery, and his dark-skinned grandmother’s attempts to visit him.
"She said, 'I’m here to check on my husband Mr. Lloyd Chavis,'" says Chavis. "The man looked at her and said, ‘Miss, we don’t treat colored patients. We don’t even have a colored janitor.’ And they did a room by room, found my grandfather — just operated on him — and put him out of the hospital. One half block from Centennial Street, on the other side, that’s what happened."
Civil rights movement gains and integration contributed to the eventual decline of East Washington Street as Blacks were free to shop anywhere in the city. The High Point Museum walking tour app includes video, audio and images from Chavis’ tours from 2011 and 2022.