New booklet tells the history of St. Catherine Street

Published 1:31 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

 A free booklet that highlights the cultural history of St. Catherine Street is now available to the public.

 Titled, “St. Catherine Street Yesteryears and Now,” the booklet features more than 40 historical sites in the area that was once known as Natchez’s “Black Wall Street.”

Photos of various buildings are included along with colorful anecdotes and historical descriptions.

Email newsletter signup

 Thelma Newsome, a staff member of the Dr. John Bowman Banks Museum, spearheaded the publication project. As project director, she plans to use the booklet for tours and other platforms to tell the complete history of  St. Catherine, she said.

 “Though many of the places no longer exist, the contribution they made to the growth of the city of Natchez can never be completely erased,” she stated in the text on the back cover of the publication. She also noted that St. Catherine was once “a vibrant community, filled with businesses owned by Black, White, and Jewish citizens.”

 The booklet is part of a larger project, which is called, “St. Catherine Street, Natchez, MS: Yesteryear through Today.”

The project uses tours, photographs, and oral history to share the rare stories of the people, buildings, culture, and businesses on St. Catherine from as far back as the 1930s, according to Newsome.

 In 2022, the project was awarded a $5,000 grant by the Mississippi Humanities Council. The booklet was funded with this grant.

The purpose of the booklet, in general terms, is summed up in a sentence on its front cover: “We hope that this booklet gives you some insight into the rich history of Saint Catherine Street and the people that lived there.”

 Much to offer

 Newsome said the publication has much to offer. “I encourage people to read it and relive vicariously the things we shared on St. Catherine Street,” she said.

 Of the 41 stories presented, the one that stands out to her is “Hot Tamales,” which focuses on Mr. Jabo Johnson and his family who lived at 196 St. Catherine.

 “I knew that family personally,” Newsome said. “We ate hot tamales on Saturday nights. Back then, they cost about thirty cents a dozen.”

 Newsome, a retired educator, said the idea for the booklet originated with a conversation she was having with Dora Hawkins, and Jacqulyn Williams.

All three of them are members of Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church, which owns the Dr. John Banks House.

 They were discussing the Natchez Deacons for Defense and Justice, and the role of the Dr. John Banks House in the civil rights movement.

“I started telling them about all the things that happened on St. Catherine, where I grew up,” Newsome said. “They were floored by the amount of information I shared with them. At one point, Dora said, ‘You should do something on the history of this street.’”

 And that’s when the idea for the booklet was born.

 “They wanted that information to be shared with others,” Newsome said. “We want everyone to understand what a viable part that St. Catherine played in the formation of the City of Natchez.”

 Fresh content

 The booklet presents 10-pages of content that feature historical nuggets with photos of historical sites on each page. Featured sites and people include:

 George F. Bowles House, Dr. John Bowman Banks Museum, Rhythm Night Club Memorial Museum, Mr. Whitehead’s Photo Shop, Three Together, Knoxall’s Grocery, The Iceman, Forks of the Road, Bob Lee’s Cleaners, Red Horse;

 Texaco Service Station, O’Brien House, Holy Family Catholic Church and St. Francis High School, Ms. Sadie V. Thompson, Community Market, Ace Theater, White Rooster, Hot Tamales, Mr. Joe’s Store, Perrault Street;

 George’s Alley, Churches, Brown’s Velvet Ice Cream, Other Entrepreneurs, Snow White Cleaners, The Bush House, Grocery Store Etc., Monmouth Street, Shotgun Houses, Donut Shop;

 Ebony Barber Shop, Funeral Homes, Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church and Parsonage, Brumfield School, Winston Hill, 69 Saint Catherine Street, Combo Restaurant, Cedar’s Alley (Street), Junkin Street, Rembert Street and Mr. Frazee Miller.

 Copies of the St. Catherine Street booklet are available for free at Visit Natchez, Historic Natchez Foundation, NAPAC museum and Natchez City Sightseeing Tours in the lobby of the Natchez Grand Hotel.

 The booklet may be downloaded at

 For more information, call Roscoe Barnes III at Visit Natchez at 601-492-3004.