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The story of Five Points, Denver's historically Black neighborhood

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Posted at 7:45 AM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 09:45:30-04

DENVER — As the country celebrates Juneteenth as an official holiday for the first time, there’s a neighborhood in Denver that’s been celebrating the holiday for decades.

Since Denver became a city, Five Points has been a place where the city's most underserved citizens and families felt at home.

The neighborhood gets its name from the five distinctive points formed at the intersection of 26th Avenue, Washington Street, 27th Street, and Welton Street.

In the 1870s, Denverites of all races lived in the neighborhood.

But as the city grew, and other parts of town became more attractive, white Coloradans left and moved to neighborhoods like Capitol Hill.

Due to racial segregation and redlining, the practice of refusing to give loans or sell homes to buyers of color in certain parts of town, most Black residents were forced to remain in the Five Points neighborhood.

As Black Coloradans were subjected to the growing presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado throughout the 1920s, Five Points became a haven and a target of hate.

But despite blatant discrimination, the neighborhood thrived with every storefront representing a Black-owned business.

When famous Black musicians like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie came to town, they stayed in Five Points hotels, most notably, the Rossonian.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the anti-discrimination legislation that followed allowed Black residents to live in other parts of the city.

But this resulted in many choosing to leave Five Points. So, the once-thriving neighborhood with bustling storefronts saw a lot less traffic, less city investment, and higher crime.

Slowly in the 1980s, businesses started to return with staples like the Black American West Museum opening its doors in the home of Colorado’s first licensed Black female doctor, Dr. Justina Ford.

In the 1990s, residents spearheaded efforts to preserve a number of other historic Five Points sites and stories.

As Five Points continues to experience changes, one thing that has remained the same is the neighborhood’s Juneteenth celebration.

Each year on Juneteenth, the heart of the city beats loudly in Five Points with jazz music, parades, and Black culture flowing through the streets of a neighborhood so dear to so many.

For a list of this years Juneteenth celebration events, click here.