Filed Under Providence

Beulah Boyd's Beauty Parlor

At 43 Camp Street, passers-by see a school playground, shaded by a stand of pine trees and surrounded by a chain link fence. During recess, children's excited shouts reach the sidewalk. The adjoining playing field is flat and grassy, belying the fact that, in decades past, the block was filled with houses, one of which contained a shop with a steady stream of customers: fashionable women with gloves and handbags seeking the renowned hair styling services of one Mrs. Beulah Boyd Jackson.

Beulah Boyd's Camp Street beauty parlor was situated in the front of her house in the predominantly African-American Mount Hope neighborhood. It was one of the first beauty parlors in the state to serve an African-American clientele, with customers traveling from the farthest reaches of Rhode Island to have "Miss Boyd" style and set their hair. (Over the years, she also operated the same shop from locations on Lippitt Street, Prospect Street, North Main Street, and another location further down Camp Street.) Former customers described Beulah's fine sense of humor and reminisced about eating and talking while waiting for hair appointments.

The beauty parlor was a family affair: Beulah ran it with her sister, Margaret Boyd Mayo, while their sons often played in the adjoining house. Beulah and Margaret were born on a Virginia farm, two of six children. After their mother's early death they were sent to live with relatives; Beulah came to live with an older married brother in Providence, and Margaret later joined her. The two lived with or nearby each other for their entire lives. Beulah's husband Raymond Jackson was a machinist at the time of their marriage in the 1930s; after the factory where he worked closed, he trained as a hairdresser as well, joining Beulah and Margaret in their beauty parlor where he styled hair until his death in 1951.

From 1940 until 1955, Beulah Boyd's beauty parlor was listed in the Negro Travelers' Green Book, an annual publication designed to guide African-American road trippers to safe and friendly establishments during the Jim Crow era. The beauty parlor was one of the only listings in Providence, alongside a few tourist homes (similar to modern Air BnBs), a tavern, and a tire shop in Silver Lake.

Images

Map of Camp Street The house at 43 Camp Street appears in the lower right corner of this map, inside a red circle added by the editor. (The house numbers are written along the street.) The name written across the house--B. Reiseroff--was the owner at the time of this map's creation in 1918. Beulah Boyd and her husband Raymond Jackson bought the house around 1934. Date: 1918
Beauty Parlor Listing in the 1950 Negro Motorist Green Book The Negro Motorist Green Book was an annual publication aimed at African-American travelers in the United States during the Jim Crow era. With listings for restaurants, lodging, car mechanics, and entertainment in each state, it helped roadtrippers find safe and comfortable establishments while in unfamiliar territory. Beulah Boyd's Beauty Parlor was listed in the Green Book from 1940-1955; her entry in this 1950 edition is indicated with a red arrow added by the editor. Date: 1950
Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School Playground The Lippitt Hill Redevelopment Project, an urban renewal program in the 1950s-1970s, tore down 650 dwelling units in the southern portion of the Mt. Hope neighborhood, displacing a huge number of mostly African-American residents. The resulting open space was used for the construction of the Olney Street Baptist Church, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, the University Heights Apartments, and the University Heights shopping center. The playground and field in this photo adjoin the MLK Elementary School and are located in the spot where Beulah Boyd's Beauty Parlor once stood. Date: 2019

Location

43 Camp St, Providence, RI 02906

Metadata

Angela DiVeglia, “Beulah Boyd's Beauty Parlor,” Rhode Tour, accessed September 29, 2022, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/354.