The King-Lincoln Neighborhood has long been known for its artistic contributions to the city and to the nation. Aminah Robinson has work throughout a number of locations in the community. Students may also be familiar with her children’s books or may know her from her living in the community, her workshops, or through family members who have attended Columbus schools. She was mentored by Anna Bishop, writer and poet who wrote of the Blackberry Patch, later the site of Poindexter Village, where Aminah Robinson grew up. Later, muralists took upon themselves to enliven the blank canvases of the neighborhood’s walls with murals based on the history of the area. Mentorship is a key piece of the King-Lincoln neighborhood, and extends to other artists such as WPA painter Emerson Burkhart who mentored Roman Johnson, a network of photographers from William Richardson to Kojo Kamau, and into the musical legacy of the community.
By the 1920s East Long Street was already the center of black commercial, social, and entertainment life. Shops, theaters, restaurants, and jazz clubs proliferated. These clubs attracted white people as well. The Plaza Hotel hosted Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Fats Waller—whose appearances would influence young Columbus musicians and vocalists. The Empress movie theater opened in 1920. Mt. Vernon Avenue was equally vibrant, and in the area, the golden age of music was in the popularity of the jazz clubs in the 1940s, especially after World War II when famous musicians played the local scene. If they played in white downtown hotels, they returned to the neighborhood to play long into the night to large crowds and with local talented musicians. Live jazz could be heard in twenty different clubs. There were also five hotels and two theaters—two of which still exist—the Lincoln and the Pythian (King Arts Complex).
The musical scene rapidly disappeared with the Civil Rights era because public areas and accommodations outlawed segregation and the center city was changing with suburbanization and the creation of shopping centers that catered to consumers’ love of cars.