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.