South of Main takes top award

A book that details life in one of Spartanburg’s early black neighborhoods and its demise, has received an award as one of the best books produced last year.

“South of Main,” published by the Hub City Writers Project, recently received the top award for Multicultural Nonfiction titles for adults in the Independent Publisher Book Awards competition.

More than 4,000 books were submitted in 60 categories in the annual competition, which is open to independent, university, small press and self-publishers in North America.

Brenda Lee, a former state representative, and Beatrice Hill, a south-side resident, joined with Hub City and others to compile the information. They spent about two years gathering documentation, photographs and memories.

“It’s wonderful to receive this award,” Lee said. “I am humbled. I knew there was a story there when I brought the idea to Hub City Writers.”

The book chronicles life along the South Liberty Street area before urban renewal wiped it out 35 years ago. The neighborhood, founded by former slaves in the 1860s, was destroyed by urban renewal efforts in the 1960s and ’70s and displaced about 2,000 people, scattered 90 businesses and razed 40 blocks.

“I was just blown away when I heard about the award,” Hill said. “Chills just went over me.”

Both Hill and Lee said the stories told in the book are comparable to other stories about black neighborhoods across the country. They wanted to make sure their neighborhood wasn’t forgotten.

“Long hours of research went into that book,” Hill said. “When we get this reaction, it is incentive to do more.”

Finalists receiving recognition in the Multicultural Nonfiction category are “In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People” published by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research; “Jewish Life in the Industrial Promised Land 1855-2005” published by the Michigan State University Press and “The Other Islanders: People Who Pulled Nantucket’s Oars” published by the Spinner Publications.

“This is a big-time award,” said Betsy Teter, executive director of Hub City Writers. “I went into this competition hopeful because there has never been a book quite like this one.”

Teter said the book takes a close look at the neighborhood. She believes other communities should initiate similar projects.

“We are competing against academic presses and publishing institutions far larger than we are,” she said.

“It just shows the uniqueness of the subject and the quality of the research.”

Linda Conley can be reached at 562-7213 or


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