Tuxedo Junction

Tuxedo Junction


The intersection of Ensley Avenue and 19th Street in the Ensley area of west Birmingham was once home to the famed Tuxedo Junction, the heart of social life for the black populations of Birmingham and the surrounding areas. Where the Pratt City and Wylam streetcars once stopped to turn around, there stood a plethora of bars, clubs, jukeboxes, and stores. It grew from a small commercial district in the 1910s to a booming center for black nightlife in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Because it was located at the end of two heavily-traveled streetcar lines, Tuxedo Junction became a popular after-work destination for commuters. Its popularity soon spread, and people came from miles around to dance, listen to music, and "jive." It was "just about the only place negroes could go to dance then," according to F.A. Simpson, another resident of Birmingham. Many musicians began their careers playing in Tuxedo Junction. Jazz musician and Birmingham native Erskine Hawkins celebrated the area's night life in his song "Tuxedo Junction." When Hawkins first wrote the song in 1939, he intended it primarily as a filler on the flip side of an album for the song "Gin Mill Special." However, the song far surpassed "Gin Mill Special" in popularity, and Hawkins, living in New York at the time, added the words which immortalized his hometown.

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