KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — To some, all they may see is a bookstore, but there’s more to the story at The Bottom. It starts with those two words, “The Bottom:” The name of what once was a thriving Black neighborhood that was demolished in the 1950s.

“Our founder and director, Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin did a lot of research and this was her passion project,” Kalil White, the executive director of The Bottom, said. “She talked with the elders and kind of understood what that community was, the kinship that was there, that was lost, through urban renewal. So it was important for us to reclaim that in the name and kind of stick to our roots, so the Bottom was created out of that.”

The bookstore that operates as a community center aims to provide a space for gathering and creating. With a podcast studio, tea room, and a sewing studio, the nonprofit is providing more chances to bring the Black community together without forgetting where that drive originated.

“Knowing what a thriving community it was, the network of people, the businesses and everything that meant there was important for us to talk about and also reclaim and share with others because I feel like often, that history is not talked about, the people that lived there weren’t talked about, their lives aren’t mentioned, it was just property that was destroyed and placed something else,” White said.

Now this version of The Bottom is the voice for the voiceless, promoting change and providing comfort all in one space.

“The Bottom is just about a place of community. I feel like often so many of us come to Knoxville and not know where we are, not know how to connect with us, and I want The Bottom to be a place where it’s your first stop to find your community,” White said. “We may not be your final destination, but we’re a stop on the way for you to figure out where you fit here in Knoxville.”   

To learn more about the History of The Bottom, visit the community center’s website