Five Points of Denver, Colorado, also known as the “Harlem of the West,” was a traditionally African American area in the early 20th century. Named in 1881 for a bustling five-way intersection, the Five Points area became the commercial and social sector for African American churches, businesses, clubs, and homes, and the heart of Denver’s black community. Black people from all walks of life made their homes in Five Points.
The region was renowned for live jazz in Denver. With more than 50 clubs and bars, many Black entertainers played to sold out shows, such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and other legends.
The city grew to be one of the most prosperous black communities in the west. However, segregation and discrimination was still very much an issue. The influx of black families to the area from other states challenged beliefs of long-term residents, who believed they had little to complain about since they lived in a Northern state. Since many people disagreed with that notion, the Denver chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality was established. These individuals sought-after opportunities in housing, employment, and education, and due to their efforts, were new opportunities were allotted to Black residents of the city.
Many residents eventually began to leave Five points, which caused the region to deteriorate. Businesses in the area began to close, and violence took over the neighborhood. During the 1970s, the area was known as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city.