Dream Land: Little Rock's West 9th Street


Little Rock, Arkansas's, West 9th Street was once a vibrant, African-American business and entertainment district. Taborian Hall is the only remaining historic structure on West 9th Street and stands as a living witness of the street's former glory days. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Taborian Hall housed varied and important black businesses, including professional offices, a USO, the Gem Pharmacy and the Dreamland Ballroom. By the 1930s, Dreamland was firmly established as a stop on the "Chitlin Circuit," which showcased regional and national African-American bands and stage shows. It was also host to local musicians, dances, socials, concerts and sporting events.

This documentary seeks to recognize, memorialize and share this history. The spirit and hard work of the people and the implications of federal programs such as Urban Renewal, school desegregation, the Housing Act of 1949 and the Eisenhower Interstate Program are explored. West 9th Street and the Dreamland Ballroom have patiently waited for their story to unfold so new audiences can connect to their historical past and unknown future.

"Only thing we know they'd tore everything down, down here." – Leon Majors, Manager of Twin City Club

Major funding for the film was provided by Arkansas Humanities Council and The Moving Image Trust Fund.

Trailers and Promos

The Filmmakers

Tanisha L. Joe-Conway

Tanisha Joe-Conway has spent over 20 years working with public affairs television. During this time, she has and continues to develop, produce, and coordinate public affairs programming for the Arkansas Educational Television Network. Her job includes live call-in programming, on-air promotion, taped specials, documentaries, and crew/staff supervision. Joe-Conway is also instrumental in grant writing, budgeting, and other office management activities. The AETN Public Affairs division produces close to 100 hours of yearly programming.

Joe-Conway's work has won numerous awards including a Videographer's Award of Distinction, the Arkansas Press Association Award for Community Service, Worldfest Houston Gold Special Jury Award, the PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and a National Educational Television Association Best Documentary Award. Joe-Conway has received a regional EMMY for the documentary Precious Memories: Our Vanishing Rural Churches. She also has three regional EMMY nominations for Mothers in Prison. Children in Crisis, Delta Dreams, and U.N.I.T.Y. documentaries.

Tanisha Joe-Conway credits faith and family as being the anchors of her life. She strives to keep those values and a strong work ethic at the forefront of each decision and action she makes. She currently resides in Conway with her husband, Charnley, and their two children, Taylor and Carson.

Gabe Mayhan

Gabe Mayhan has compiled a diverse body of work over the course of his cinematography career. Whether it was from his time covering breaking news, to shooting in remote locations in South America for an adventure show or crafting stylistic narrative stories, he approaches each project with dutiful ambition, respectful collaboration, and innovative technique. His work has been screened at film festivals such as Slamdance and Tribeca, broadcast on networks the likes of HBO, Showtime and PBS, and screened theatrically across the US. Many of the films have been recognized and awarded for the cinematography.

Last year, 2016, was a pretty big year for Gabe, having two films released theatrically, Greater and Lazy Eye. Greater is a heartfelt drama set in the world of college football. Lazy Eye is a bittersweet romance about reconnecting with a lost love,. Although very different in style and content, both films have been well received. Gabe also returned behind the lens for the second season of Mineral Explorers, a travel show that explores the origins and geological stories of minerals from around the world.

Other forthcoming works are the feature films; All the Birds Have Flown South, a southern gothic drama that deals with despair and addiction, and Antiquities, a coming of age story about a young man encountering loss and finding himself in the journey.

Whether behind the lens or in the director's chair, his work on documentaries is gaining attention as well. In 2012, he shot All About Ann, an HBO documentary chronicling the life and legacy of Texas Governor Ann Richards. Champion Trees, a documentary for PBS that explores the relationship between art and nature. The show captured two Emmy's for Cultural Documentary and Cinematography in 2014. Slated to air spring of 2017, the documentary Dream Land tells the history of an African American neighborhood during segregation and the lasting impact of Urban Renewal. (In both Champion Trees and Dream Land, Gabe held double duties as the films' director and cinematographer.

Gabe's unique vision and strong understanding of story have quickly gained the interest of filmmakers and audiences around the country. He brings an understanding that each project has its own way to be crafted visually, and within each story there is a unique opportunity to evolve the narrative emotionally through the cinematography, allowing the film to be seen — in its best light.

Lucas Mireles

Lucas Mireles is a native Texan and former shot putter for the University of Houston and the Mexican National Junior Olympic team. In 2013, he received his MFA degree in film directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. His films have premiered at such festivals as: Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW and Austin. He is a Film Independent: Project Involve fellow and was selected to participate in the Berlinale Talents Program at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival. Lucas lives and works professionally in Los Angeles, CA.

Film Historians & Participants

Annie Abrams
Jay Barth
Sal Bonner
Kenneth Brown
Minnijean Brown-Trickey
Phillip Bryant
John Bush IV
John Cain
Frankie Gaines
Dr. John Graves
Vilma Hendrix
Gayle Honeycutt-Ross
Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch
Dr. John Kirk
Kwendeche
Berna Love
Leon Majors Sr.
Kerry McCoy
Jimmy Moses
Henry Rodgers
Billy Sparks Jr.
Grif Stockley
L.T. Terry

Timeline

  • 1828: Jim Crow caricature came on to the scene
  • 1854: African American business district in Little Rock established
  • 1860 (approx.): refugee freed slaves came to Little Rock
  • 1863: Union army occupation
  • 1863: Emancipation Proclamation
  • 1863?: Blissville constructed
  • 1868: Jim Crow laws came into affect
  • 1872: Knights and Daughters of Tabor founded
  • 1890: 1/6 of population in Little Rock foreign born and over ½ of population born in Little Rock born in the North
  • 1901: Founder of Knights and Daughters of Tabor, Rev. Moses Dickson, died
  • 1917-1923: West 9th Street was highly prosperous
  • 1918-1939: Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
  • 1927: John Carter murdered in May
  • 1930's: I630 project conceived
  • 1930's: Knights and Daughters of Tabor lose Taborian Hall due to the Great Depression
  • 1933: Dreamland Ballroom becomes big
  • 1936: Chicago Defender writes about Dreamland Ballroom
  • 1941: 8th Street Expressway (later I630) proposal in Pulaski County Planning Board report
  • 1942: Taborian Hall is used as Black servicemen's club
  • 1942: USO Dance at Robinson Auditorium in Downtown Little Rock
  • 1955: Horace Mann high school built
  • 1955: Jim Crow laws breaking down but geographical segregation rises
  • 1957: Little Rock Nine attempt integration at Central High School
  • 1957: Start of civil rights protests for African-American equality
  • 1957: Hall High School opened
  • 1958: Tentative plan for 8th Street Expressway (later I630)
  • 1958: Horace Mann is integrated
  • 1959: Little Rock urban renewal starts
  • 1959: Dreamland Ballroom closes and a new club goes in its place
  • 1964: Construction around W. 9th Street starts
  • 1965: Club following Dreamland Ballroom closes
  • 1970: I630 added to interstate system by Arkansas Representative Wilbur D. Mills
  • 1975: Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) gets involved with the I630 project
  • 1985: Final section of I630 opens
  • 1988: City of Little Rock plans to demolish buildings of West 9th Street and Little Rock Historical Society thwarted the project
  • 1991: Kerry McCoy buys Taborian Hall
Vintage photo of people gathered outside of Tamborian Hall

Historical Photos

Last Updated 05 Apr 2017