The Picayune Colored Gymnasium
Picayune, Mississippi (Pearl River County)
Built in 1930 by local businessmen George Pickett and William “Bo” Sewell, the Picayune Colored Gymnasium served the African American community as a recreational and entertainment center for sixty years. The two-story cinder-block building contained the only full-sized basketball court and the only indoor recreational facility available to African Americans on the Gulf Coast in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to basketball, the building also hosted boxing tournaments, dances and gospel concerts. Beginning in 1946, it was the home court for both the boys’ and the girls’ basketball teams at the Picayune Colored High School.
In addition to the basketball court, the building featured a stage and a mezzanine with pool tables which served as a social center for young people. Basketball was not the only sport at the Picayune Colored Gymnasium. Boxers also trained here, including Picayune native Freddie Little, who would go on to become the WBA and WBC Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World and a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
The Picayune Colored Gymnasium was the last surviving structure that marked a thriving African American business district in Picayune. It was converted into a night club in 1960 and sat been vacant after the 1990s. The building suffers from deferred maintenance and was yet another victim of Hurricane Katrina, which damaged the roof and exterior walls.
2017 Update – Lost
The Picayune Colored Gymnasium was demolished, although the exact date of demolition is unknown.