Culture, Art & Music

The East End Cultural Heritage District contains many of Austin’s most historically significant African American cultural institutions, organizations, and venues. For this community, years of racial segregation also resulted in the establishment, and continued development and nurturance, of forms of expressive culture firmly rooted in Black America’s connection to the cultural traditions of Africa. Throughout the history of Black East Austin the influence and melding of African folkways, combined with the experience of North American slavery, has resulted in a rich local tradition of creative output. From oratory and spirited praise-song in the churches, to more formal visual and musical expression through the schools, to the everyday soul food culinary arts, gutbucket blues and jazz of the cafes, Black East Austin has a unique cultural identity that sets it apart from the other sections of the city.

The inventory of cultural assets found in the District represents a diverse mix of historic/heritage sites and institutions, contemporary arts and culture organizations, and workspaces/commercial outlets of individual creatives and small businesses. Though originally settled by a mix of American Anglos, European and Mexican immigrants, and freed African/American slaves, in 1928 the City of Austin designated Central East Austin as a “Negro District.” The resultant legally-enforced racial segregation of the community restricted African Americans’ access to housing, city services, public schools and parks, and most public accommodations and social outlets. In effect, the Negro District also provided the historic foundation and geographic location for many of the churches, schools, entertainment and commercial corridors, and social institutions that now comprise the East Austin African American Cultural Heritage District.

Upon this historic foundation, present-day artistic and cultural activity abounds. The District houses Austin’s two full-time African American cultural arts organizations (ProArts and DiverseArts), the Texas Music Museum, and the Fontaine Religious Museum. Central East Austin also has the highest density of visual art studios in Austin (East Austin Studio Tour), more performing arts venues and theater companies than any section of the city, and a variety of live music venues and recording studios, all anchored by a residential community that includes a large number of working creatives in the fine and commercial arts, media, and arts related businesses.

Whose Blues?: Race Relations and Segregation on the East Austin Blues Scene

"A literary and musical form . . . a fusion of music and poetry accomplished at a very high emotional temperature . . . these are different ways of describing the same thing. A gigantic field of feeling . . . that’s a way of describing something enduring, something that could be limitless. How much thought . . . can be hidden in a few short lines of poetry? How much history can be transmitted by pressure on a guitar string? The thought of generations, the history of every human being who’s ever felt the blues come down like showers of rain."

Shamrock Restaurant & Bar

From an interview with Pat Murphy conducted by Harold McMillan: [on successful business owners] "They don't come along that often. You had at that time, you had Charlie Gilden, you had right next door at the Oak Tree, uh, not next door. Up on 12th St. you had George Nichols. George Nichols ran several very successful businesses. He ran the Oak Tree Cafe. He opened the Oak Tree and was very successful. And you had Valle Cannon who helped, well who took over when Johnny Holmes went to Alaska. Valle Cannon ran a very good business there at the Victory."


Shamrock Rest Bar
1207 E 11th St

Carlin's Place

Owner/Operator: Flora G. Carlin



1203 E 11th St
Austin, TX, 78702

Dew Drop Inn

H & H Club

  • Jason A. Reid
  • Thomas S. Plummer
  • Lawrence Williams
  • Robert Humphreys



1133 E 11th St
Austin, TX, 78702

IL Club

Owner/Operator: Ira Littlefield

"'Charlie's brought the white kids from the west side and the runoff enabled the other clubs to have a heck of a business,' he explains. 'Like Sam's on 12th Street and the IL Club across the corner from Charlie's Playhouse. And when Charlie's was full, the kids just said, 'We'll go to the IL Club,' because he had a band, too. They just tore that club down a year or two ago [ca.2001].'" from Margaret Moser's article Bright Lights, Inner City


1124 E 11th St
Austin, TX

Hot Shot Inn

Owner/Operator: C. D. Elders and Ira Littlefield


1114 E 11th St
Austin, TX

Club Derby

Owner/Operators: Robert Hobbs and Lorenzo Thompson

"Mississippi-born Lavelle White was already a veteran musician based in Houston when bookings brought her to Austin in the Sixties.
'I came to Austin to play,' she says, 'and I played a gob of clubs: Charlie's Playhouse, the Derby, Good Daddy's, Sam's Showcase, the Victory Grill. Joe Valentine had a club, too. There were a lot of clubs there and really in the swing, you know? They were really doing it.'" from Margaret Moser's article Bright Lights, Inner City



1113 E 11th St
Austin, TX

Steamboat Inn

Owner/Operators: Ira Littlefield and Frank Moore "Steamboat I was playing alto sax and Bobby was playing trumpet and I forget. Who was that on drums? Oh, Billy Joe Walker on drums. Who was on piano? I believe, if I'm not mistaken, Alton Rezan, who is a local...who is retired and was a local producer of plays. I believe he was on piano. We played at Steamboat for about four or five months as a houseband, playing blues. You know, whine, whine, whine, soddie, oddie and so forth.


1112 E 11th St
Austin, TX

Sunrise Tavern

Owner/Operator: Mrs. Willie M. Goode


1110 E 11th St
Austin, TX

The Historic Victory Grill / Historic Premier Blues Club

Owner/Operators:  John M. Holmes, Roy Harris, George Nichols, and Mrs. Mary Wadsworth


Historic Victory Grill / Historic Premier Blues Club
1104 East 11th
Austin, TX, 78702
Syndicate content