From a shantytown to a major thoroughfare in the heart of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, “The Bottoms” is a study of dramatic change over time in American history.
“The Bottoms” was home to mainly unskilled laborers who found employment in the numerous factories and industries that thrived adjacent to the railroad. The population was predominantly African American when it first developed in the years following the Civil War, but became more racial integrated by the 1940s and ‘50s. However, the area would never escape its low-income, “poverty stricken” stereotype. Most of the housing consisted of one and two-room wooden shacks. Living conditions were difficult and unsanitary as there was no running water or plumbing, and little to no electricity. This condition would continue until the early 1950s when the area would become part of a greater national movement, the era of Urban Renewal in America.
During the Reconstruction era, former slaves flocked to cities throughout the war-torn South looking for shelter and employment. Most of these African Americans were poverty stricken, so housing was constructed of any available materials and therefore “shantytowns” became a common fixture. One such “community” formed just southwest of the town square in Murfreesboro. This neighborhood would come to be known as “The Bottoms” because of its low terrain that consistently flooded by the rising waters of Lytle Creek, which meandered through the area.