Over in East Knoxville (at 2340 E. Magnolia Avenue to be specific) lies The Bottom – a magical place where you can listen to book talks, join in on discussions, celebrate community, or even find a book of your own. It was founded by Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin, a local sociologist studying race, place, and Black Communities. Speaking of those communities, The Bottom was named after a Black neighborhood in East Knoxville – a neighborhood that isn’t listed over at on our Neighborhoods page because it was completely demolished in the 1950s by urban renewal and institutionalized racism.
Rooted in community interviews and archival research, El-Amin’s work uncovered a resounding feeling of displacement and loss of space that spanned all the way from Knoxville’s black elders to the youth. She found that urban removal (while technically ended in 1974) was still very real for the people living in its remnants.
But Dr. El-Amin wanted to do more than just conduct a study. She wanted to make an impact. That desire became reality via an unassuming house on 2340 East Magnolia Avenue. It’s now the site of The Bottom Knox, a nonprofit community and organization space located right in the historic neighborhood it’s named after.
The Bottom Knox is a place where El-Amin, the founder, hopes Black people will feel comfortable in their own skin. It always included the healing stories of those who specifically lived and grew up in East Knoxville.
It’s open to any and all visitors who want to be part of an inspiring community-building effort (homegrown right here in Knoxville) though.There are plenty of events occurring every month that include volunteer opportunities, guest speakers, study groups, a merch shop (with one of the coolest shirts I’ve seen pictured below), and local art exhibitions. The space also includes an art studio offering workshops, quilting lessons, and the “Sew It Sell It” program, which teaches children how to sew and sell products. There’s even a brand new tea room! Patrons can sip on unique teas and discuss the various cultures that make up our great city of Knoxville. The profits go directly to the many endeavors The Bottom participates in to build community and help local Knoxvillians.
The bookstore is my personal favorite part of The Bottom. It has a curated selection of Black authors. It directly supports the impact that Dr. El-Amin is striving towards. It’s open for you to come and browse every Tuesday through Saturday from 11am-6pm. AND while the selection is curated, The Bottom will special order a book for you – just ask!
Find your new summer read, have a good conversation, and be a part of something bigger – starting at The Bottom.