Meet Memphian and Certified Public Accountant Ashley Garrison. A graduate of the University of Memphis, she was a member of Beta Alpha Psi (a national accounting honor society), president of the Black Students Association, and a member of the Epsilon Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor's and Master's in Accounting and went on to secure a position with Fortune 500 company, International Paper. However, in 2020 she decided to make a career change and start working for herself! She is now the owner and managing partner of a full-service boutique accounting firm, GRF Financials, LLC., headquartered in Memphis, TN. Outside of running her business, she is currently involved with two local nonprofits, 'Youth Behind The Music' - board member and 'STS Enterprise - exec team member. She is a mentor, an amazing mother, and a closet painter! And Oh! My girl is currently a member of the National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants. Apart of an industry where she only accounts for 2%,(according to New York Times and multiple other articles black accountants only make up 2% of the industry)Ashley is thriving growing at a rate of 150% each year since going full-time. She is extremely passionate about accounting and her city! She attributes that passion to why Memphis was the only place that came to mind when she thought about starting her company.
"It was important to me that I start my company in the city that raised me. I wanted the work that I do to reflect the amazing city that I am from."
Specializing in small businesses, she offers a variety of services. She can assist with your individual taxes, business federal tax reporting, state business regulations, and be your virtual CFO. I can personally attest to the level of professionalism and hard work that's offered by GRF. I am currently a client (individual taxes for now) and never worry about anything tax-related. I literally just give Ashely all of my tax documents and wait on an email from the IRS saying documents received. And even when an issue arises she handles it without hesitation. For example, I received a letter in January of 2021 stating that I owed the IRS $800+. I was thoroughly confused and furious. I file my taxes every year and allow the max to be taken out of any income. I informed Ashley, she immediately told me to scan the document to her and that she would contact the IRS on my behalf. It wasn't long before I knew why I owed the IRS. The fee was due to me not having insurance for two years. I was still mad, the reason I didn't have insurance was due to me being unemployed for two years(scressful). However, Ashley assured me that everything would be okay and that she would handle it. She also told me that she could get the amount lowered. She was successful! That's what kind of service you can expect from GRF! You can expect to be handled with care, someone that is knowledgeable, professional, punctual, and thorough.
"I want to use my skills and gift (of all things accounting) to make a difference. To give individuals and business owners a full understanding of their financial position and tax liability."
Now that you have been properly introduced to Ashley and GRF Financials, I highly suggest that you contact them now! If you're a business owner, thinking about starting a business, or want to get your individual tax situation in order, contact GRF ASAP! The last day to file your federal income tax isn't until April 18, 2022, so you have time to make GRF Financials your new firm!
For more information and a list of services, please visit GRF's website! Follow them on Facebook and Instagram!
Aligned with our theme of “Indulging in the Culture" to honor Black History Month, I attended the premiere of Memphis Jookin’: The Show Friday night at the Orpheum Theatre. This original production featured dance artist, Lil Buck, as he paid homage to his hometown, Memphis. Jookin' is a dance technique that originated in Memphis during the 80's.
I love that the tour premiered in such an iconic venue, The Orpheum. It’s important that our culture is showcased in beautiful venues and is valued as art. Because Jookin’ is just as artistic as ballet, tap, and any other dance form. The show was phenomenal and Memphis AF! They took the audience down memory lane paying homage to the legendary DJ Spanish Fly and his contribution to creating gangsta music mixtapes. My favorite part of the evening was the throwback rendition of Crystal Palace skate nights. From the music, to the disco ball, and a few of the performers actually roller skating on stage, it created the ultimate nostalgic setting of Memphis in the 90's. It felt like I was on those hardwood floors at the Palace watching a live Jookin battle! Oh wait. I was watching a live Jookin battle! Out of nowhere the performers came to the front of the stage, asking the audience, "What hood you from?" Screams of NORTH, SOUTH, MOUND came from the crowd. Two sets of dancers battled each other, representing North Memphis and South Memphis. They were gliding across the stage and breaking ankles left to right.
The show also had a few tear jerking moments as the youngest cast member shared her experiences with the dance team and how much it mean to be living out her dreams at 16. Another soloist did a tribute to his late father ,OG Willie, who introduced him to the art of jookin. Lil Buck also performed with a video playing in the background describing his passion for the dance community in Memphis. He jokingly shared how he first saw Jookin at the crystal palace and how OG dancers critiqued his work saying his moves weren’t “gangsta” enough.
But with grind + grit, in true Memphis fashion, Lil Buck has perfected his art and is sharing his love for Jookin across the nation. Be sure to follow his IG and check out the tour’s website so that you won’t miss the opportunity to see this showcase in person!
By Janessa - Blogger, Plug901
February 15, 2021
This list continues to grow! Here are some Black Owned businesses for you to check out. I will leave an asterisk symbol (*) beside places I can give insight on. Think of it as your little black book, a black owned business directory.
Food and Beverages
The S.O. What! Foundation*
This organization helps youth overcome obstacles and eliminate excuses
by providing hope, love, support, encourage, direction, and training.
Memphis Urban League Young Professionals*
This organization is a service oriented leadership organization promoting
the development of young professionals and serving their affiliates
through social and community actions.
This organization is a development organization for
high school and college students in the Mid-South.
901 Natural Cutie
This organization's mission is to promote positive images, people
and activities in the African American community.
Cynthia Daniels & Co.
This organization creates events for professionals. Cynthia Daniels & Co, is a full-service event planning and design company that specializes in executing large-scale corporate and social events.
JUICE Orange Mound
This organization exist to unite, empower, and support each resident
in HISTORIC Orange Mound by finding and funding innovative ideas within the community.
This organization's mission is to inspire and cultivate creativity within the
our community, to provide a platform for African American artists in Memphis to display
their talents, and use that creative expression as a vehicle to uplift our community.
Just City Memphis
This organization's mission is to advance policies and programs within Shelby County and the State of Tennessee that strengthen the right to counsel and mitigate the damage caused to families and neighborhoods as a result of contact with the criminal justice system.
Perfectly Me & Proud LLC.
This organization is committed to eradicating stigma and low self-esteem
in women by embracing, educating, and empowering the total woman.
Facebook and Instagram @Perfectly Me & Proud
Memphis is filled with history so, I wanted to share ways to really embrace and indulge in the culture!
Places to Visit
The museum that showcases 260 artifacts and interactive media covering five centuries of African American history, The National Civil Rights Museum. The museum is Located at the Lorraine Motel
Learn more about slavery when you visit one of the Underground Railroads safe haven stops for slaves on their way to freedom, Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum. Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is housed inside the historic Burkle Estate that was owned by a German immigrant apart of the anti-slavery movement.
Now, at first I wasn't too sure about this one. I have always just walked straight passed this place because I wasn't certain what information it held but according to the website The Cotton museum will tell the complex history of cotton and it's contributions to the city. Let me know how it goes!
Take a trip Downtown and check out the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery located on Bale street. View photos taken by the legendary Dr. Ernest C Withers who was a trained military photographer and one of the first nine African Americans appointed to the Memphis Police Department. His collection features life during the Civil Rights movement, the 20th century, and present day.
Celebrate musician greats like B.B. King, W. C. Handy, Isaac Hayes, Hank Crawford and research the impact Memphis has had on music by going to the Blues Hall of Fame, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studio, Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum or W.C. Handy Home and Museum.
blues.org/ staxmuseum.com/ www.sunstudio.com/
Take a trip to the first African-American neighborhood and stop by "The CMPLX" to celebrate the art created by today's Memphis talent! Brought to us by way of The Collective, The CMPLX is a black owned art gallery and event space displaying the creations of native Memphians.
1. Lucie E. Campbell
Lucie Campbell was the first African American female gospel music composer. She was also a singer, mentor, educator, and activist. Born in 1890 in Duck Hill, Mississippi Lucie Campbell spent most of her life in Memphis. She graduated from Kortrecht High School (now Booker T. Washington), received her bachelor's from Rust College, and her master's from Tennessee State University. Campbell become a teacher after graduating high school, but it was in 1911 that she would start her journey as a teacher at her former high school teaching history and English for over forty years. During her career, Campbell was elected as vice president of the American Teachers Association, president of the Tennessee Teachers Association, and organized a thousand voice choir. She was also one of the nine founders of the National Baptist Sunday School and Baptist Training Union Congress and became its music director. As the music director, Campbell auditioned musicians such as Marian Anderson, J. Robert Bradley, Thomas A. Dorsey, and Mahalia Jackson. In her lifetime she would publish more than one hundred compositions. Lucie E. Campbell Elementary School in Memphis, TN is named in her honor.
Historic Black Memphis p.17
2. Benjamin Hooks
Civil Rights activist Benjamin L. Hooks was born in Memphis, TN on January 31, 1925. A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, Hooks would obtain his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University in Chicago. Hooks would return to Memphis after law school to start his own practice and help organize the Tennessee Voters Council. He would go on to become the first African American Criminal Court Judge in Shelby County and in 1982 Hooks increased voter registration for the NAACP to 850,000. In 1996 he Founded the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis and in 2005, The Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library was named after him. In 2007 Dr. Benjamin Hooks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This man put in so much work during his lifetime that this is just a very small summary of his legacy.
3. Robert R. Church Sr.
The south’s first black millionaire, Robert R. Church was a Memphis businessman, community activist, political leader, and philanthropist responsible for rescuing Memphis after the yellow fever epidemic of 1873. Basically destroyed by yellow fever, Memphis had lost its charter but it would be a $1,000 bond bought by Robert R. Church that would restore the city's charter. Born in Holly Springs, MS as an enslaved person to mother Emmeline in 1839, Church would start out as a cabin boy (later a steward) on the steamboat of his white father, Charles B. Church of Memphis. Church fled to Memphis in 1862 due to his boat being captured during the Battle of Memphis. Shortly after he arrives in Memphis, Robert would start his journey as a businessman by opening a Saloon on Main Street and Gayoso. Robert R. Church dedicated sixty-plus years of his life to the bettering of Memphis. He purchased land on Beale Street so that there could be a park and auditorium for the black community during a time when we were forbidden to use the recreational facilities within the city. The auditorium included a 2,000 seating capacity making it the largest black-owned theatre in the world. Church also owned a hotel and was the founder and first president of the solvent savings bank and trust company. The bank quickly became the largest black-owned bank in Tennessee and the third-largest in the country. In 1908 he paid off creditors to prevent them from seizing Beale Street Baptist Church. You would think a man responsible for a city's survival would be highlighted a little more but hopefully, this blog will help spread the word about him more.
Historic Black Memphians Pg. 7
4. Robert R. Church Jr.
Following in his father’s footsteps but having a much more successful political career
Robert R. Church Jr. attended Morgan Park Military Academy in Illinois, Oberlin College in Ohio, and the Packard School of Business in New York. He also went through two years of training in banking on Wall Street. One of his first jobs was managing Church Park and Auditorium on Beale Street. He was a cashier of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company and founded and financed the Lincoln League in Memphis in 1916. The League would plan voter registration drives and pay poll taxes for African American voters. They went on to register more than ten thousand voters. In 1917 Church orchestrated Tennessee's first branch of the NAACP in Memphis, TN and just two years later he was elected to the national board of directors. Church was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Historic Black Memphian pg. 5
5. Mary Church Terrell
Daughter of Robert R. Church Sr. and Louisa Ayres Church, Mary Church Terrell was an African American activist, teacher, and author born in Memphis, TN in 1863.
One of the first black women to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, Mary founded the Colored Women's League in 1892. She founded this organization so that she could help provided assistance to women of color, this assistance included night classes would be available for women, childcare could be provided for working mothers, and more. In 1895 she was the first black woman appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education and in 1896 Mary Church Terrell helped found the National Association of Colored Women. She was selected as the first president of the organization and would remain in that role from 1896 to 1901. In 1909, Terrell was a founder and charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and would go on to published her own autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World in 1940. Her list of accomplishments and involvement go on into the 1950s. Mary Church Terrell would leave this world still fighting against segregation, discrimination, and for women's rights!
6. First Memphis Black Public School(s)
So y’all this was probably the hardest fact to follow and understand. Schools went through a lot of different changes and record keeping wasn’t the easiest, but I am going to do my best to give some history! Just know that the first set of schools for black students were Booker T. Washington, Manassas High, Melrose, and the Howe Institute (Now Lemoyne-Owen College). It is believed that the first school for black students was called the Freedmen’s School and was opened in 1863. However, in 1866 all black schools and churches would be burned down during the race massacre. Clay Street school would be Memphis’ first black public school on record, it was a brick building and built in 1873. Shortly after Clay Street opened it would be changed to Kotrecht Grammar School and in 1891 Kortrecht Grammar School changed to Kortrecht High School. In 1911 Kortrecht High School (the city’s only black public high school) would end up moving into another building but keeping the previous building so that Kotrecht Grammar School could reopen. In 1926 Kortrecht High School become what is now Booker T. Washington. Manassas would be established in 1899 and Melrose in 1890. The Howe institute was a private institution for African Americans that was established in 1888. T. O Fuller would be named principal of the Howe Institute in 1902.
7. Willie W. Herenton
Now, technically J.O Patterson Jr. was appointed the interim Mayor of Memphis in 1982 making him our first black mayor but in 1991 Memphis would have its first ELECTED black mayor. Born in 1940 in South Memphis, TN Willie W. Herenton embarked on a journey that would prepare him for his career in education and politics. He graduated from LeMoyne-Owen College with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, from the University of Memphis with a Master’s in educational administration and a doctorate in education at Southern Illinois University. Before becoming the mayor Herenton was teacher and at the age of 28 he became the youngest principal in Memphis. In 1979 he was the super intendent of Memphis public schools and in 1991 was elected as the first African American mayor of Memphis. Dr. Willie W. Herenton would go on to be elected for four consecutive terms as mayor and named as Municipal Leader of the Year by The American City & County magazine in 2002.
8. The Memphis 13
Although the supreme court case Brown v. Board of Education would desegregate schools in 1954 it wasn’t until October of 1961 that Memphis City Schools gained its first group of African American students. With assistance from the NAACP thirteen first graders, Dwania Kyles, Harry Williams, Michael Willis, Alvin Freeman, Sharon Malone, Sheila Malone, Pamela Mayes, Joyce Bell, E.C. Freeman, Leandrew Wiggins, Clarence Williams, Deborah Ann Holt, and Jacqueline Moore would officially desegregate 4 former all white elementary schools. Choosing children opposed to high school students, as done in other cities and states, was a strategic play that probably kept that day from becoming violent. The schools they desegrated included Bruce, Gordon, Rozelle, and Springdale elementary. A documentary on the subject was created by University of Memphis Law Professor Daniel Kiel in 2011. I have included the link below so that you all may watch!
9. Black Memphis Music Clubs and Theatres
Here I just wanted to highlight some of the places black Memphians were able to enjoy themselves, whether it was to party, skate, have a night out, see their favorite artist perform, or catch a movie these spaces provided them with entertainment. Most of these poplar black spaces were located in Downtown Memphis and saw plenty of amazing black talent especially in the 50s and 60s. These spots were
Club Handy, the Hippodrome, the Palace Theatre, the Flamingo Room, and Curry's Tropicana Club. The links below provided a little insight into Memphis' music/club scene as well as supply of with visual of how fly black Memphis was back in the day.
10. Hattiloo Theatre
Hattiloo Theatre is Memphis' only freestanding Black performance theatre and is located in Overton Square at 37 Cooper St, Memphis, TN 38103. Founded in 2006 Hattiloo started out as non-profit organization but quickly grow into the beautiful space we know today. This year brings us season 15 at Hattiloo and they continue to support black artist of all forms!
"Hattiloo Theatre’s art collection of notable Black Theatre artists is one of a kind in the nation. Each year, Hattiloo commissions Black artists who are from or living in Memphis to create a work as part of a visual map of Black theatre’s journey through American history."
They currently offer a variety of programs such as theatre school, the black theatre mangers fellowship, and more. Learn more about Hattiloo and the theatre schedule by clicking on the link below!
11. Ernest Withers
Memphian Ernest C. Withers was an African American photojournalist during the Civil Rights moment and one of the city’s first African American police officers. His photos tell stories of the work of Martin Luther King, give moments from the trial of Emmett Till, tell the stories of integration of public spaces and the end of the Negro Leagues. He was also the official photographer for Stax Records and took photos of artist such as Isaac Hayes, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and BB King. His work appeared in the New York Times, Life, People, Time, Jet, Ebony, The Washington Post and more. Withers took more than a million pictures in his career and The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. displays some of his work. The Withers Collection Museum and Gallery in Downtown Memphis was once his studio but in 2011 opened to the public as a museum. The museum is also used to host public panel discussions and can host private events.
12. Memphis State 8
In September of 1959 eight African American students would change the campus of Memphis State (Now the University of Memphis) forever. Rose Blakney-Love, Eleanor Gandy, Sammie Johnson, Marvis Kneeland Jones, Bertha Rogers Looney, Luther McClellan, Ralph Prater and John Simpson desegrated Memphis State but desegregation wouldn’t mean the students would be treated as equals on campus. As the only minority students on the campus, they faced many restrictions. They would have to use separate restrooms, weren’t allowed to attend dances, join sports, bands, fraternities, and sororities. These 8 individuals would have a long fight ahead of them, but progress would be made! The students would perform sit ins, protest, and create organizations to help them create the college experience they deserved. One of the first campus organization the student founded would be BSA, The Black Student Association, which is now the campus’ largest minority student organization. Because of their attendance, dedication, sacrifice, and hard work (accompanied with the work of many more) I was able to attend the University of Memphis without limitations. I am forever grateful for their work and spirit. A scholarship and the alumni mall on the main campus is named after the first graduate of the Memphis State Eight, Luther C. McClellan. He was also the first African American graduate of the University.
13. LeMoyne- Owen College
LeMoyne-Owen College is Memphis’ only HBCU(Historically Black Colleges and Universities). It was the outcome of a merger between Lemoyne College and Owen College in 1968. LeMoyne College was an elementary school in 1862 but was burned down during the Memphis Massacre. The school was rebuilt in 1867 and then moved to LeMoyne Owen's current location on Walker Ave in 1914. It became a junior college in 1924 and then a four college in 1930. In 1947 Owen College was established on Vance Ave offering two year associate degrees in general education, business, home economics and religious education. Owen College would suffer some hardship but still merge with LeMonye College in 1968 becoming one of the world's private historically black colleges.
14. First Baptist Beale Street
Built in 1869 First Baptist Beale Street was the first church built in Memphis (and one of the first churches in the south) for and by African Americans. The church was also home to Memphis Free Speech edited by Ida B. Wells which was the city’s first black newspaper. First Baptist Beale Street was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
We all know that Memphis is a Music city, a city that has been named the birthplace of Rock and Roll and Blues. So, it is only right that I give a small list of black musicians/artists that are from Memphis and have contributed to not only the culture and sound of Memphis but to Music.
Issac Hayes, Booker T. Jones, Albert Jackson Jr., Junior Wells, The Bar-Kays, 8Ball, Lil Hardin Armstrong, David Porter, Johnny Ace, Dj Paul, Gangsta Boo, La Chat, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black, Koopsta Knicca, Project Pat, William Shade Jr., Playa Fly, Booker Little, Cassietta George, Al Kapone, KoKo Taylor, Yo Gotti, Moneybagg Yo, Blac Youngsta, Skinny Pimp, Pooh Shiesty, Frayser Boy, Drumma Boy, Kameron Whalum, Kirk Whalum, MJG, Anita Ward, Memphis Slim, Hank Crawford, Alberta Hunter, Juicy J, Key Glock, Nakia Shine, Young Dolph, Maurice White
David Porter, Snottie Wild, Ben Branch
Hey Hey! It is one of the most magical months of the year, Black History Month! We live in a city filled with black African American culture so, it is only right that I give y'all 28 Memphis Black history facts!! Let's start with a couple of facts about Memphis! Memphis is named after Memphis, Egypt, and was founded on May 22, 1819. Memphis has the largest African American population in Tennessee and is the state's second-largest city. Memphis is the creator of many genres of music, one being crunk music, and has the worlds best barbeque (not up for debate)!
1. Orange Mound
Now, y’all knew this was going to be my first fact! Lol Orange Mound(where I grew up) is the first African American neighborhood built exclusively for and by African Americans in the US! Developed in 1890 as a segregated subdivision, Orange Mound was built on the former Deaderick Plantation. Originally the neighborhood contained 982 shotgun homes and got its name from the osage orange hedges that grew on the plantation. The residents built their own homes, churches and eventually developed a black business district on Carnes Avenue. Orange Mound was home to professional doctors, teachers, attorneys, and it became a refuge for African Americans moving to Memphis.
2. The Lorraine Motel
The Lorraine Motel was a preferred safe haven for black travels from 1945 to 1968. Rebranded in 1945 by a black businessman named Walter Bailey, The Lorraine Motel was listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book, a publication during segregation that recognized businesses in America that allowed black customers as an establishment that welcomed black travelers during Jim Crow. The Lorraine Motel also hosted its share of black celebrities, checking in some of the Black entertainment's elite, such as Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, and Jackie Robinson, just to name a few. The Lorraine Motel would close its doors as a Motel in 1988 and be established as the National Civil Rights Museum in 1991. This historical landmark tells us the many stories of our ancestors and takes us through an emotional time machine of change, sacrifice, and strength. The National Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Motel is still involved in the movement as they continue to host a variety of events, partner with community organizations, and offer programs to help educate and inspire future leaders. Click the link below for more info on the Civil Rights Museum. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to know what events are happening and how you may get involved.
3. Beale street
The famous Beale Street, known for its musical history, live entertainment, nightlife, and culture, was officially established in 1841. A street that would be saved by a black man named Robert R. Church Sr., the south’s first black millionaire, after the yellow fever epidemic devastated the city in the 1870s forcing the city to forfeit its charter. With the Memphis population depleted, Church bought land and made investments that helped restore the historic district as well as make it a breeding ground for black-owned businesses. In addition to Church’s efforts, it has been said that the black community helped aid the sick and rebuild the city after the disease passed. Beale Street was also the headquarters of “Memphis Free Speech”, the newspaper partially owned by Ida B. Wells. During the 20th century, Beale Street was filled with creativity, music, and black musicians gaining us the title of the birthplace of blues. W.C Handy would compose “Memphis Blues” on the ironic street. Beale Street would continue to thrive until the 60s when Memphis would endure a time of racial inequality and Beale would be left abandoned. However, Beale would be revived and become whole again in the 1980s
4. Clayborn Temple
The journey of Clayborn Temple would begin in 1949 when the property, then the Second Presbyterian Church, was purchased by the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). A decade or so after Clayborn Temple emerged it would be coined as a safe haven for strategizing and planning during the Civil Rights Movement. Clayborn Temple was headquarters for the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, where the historic “I Am A Man” signs were distributed. Protesters would march from the church to city hall. Clayborn Temple would also be the location where the sanitation workers gathered on April 16, 1968, to accept terms that would end the strike. Closed in 1999, Clayborn Temple has since reopened its doors and has a $14 million restoration project in the works.
5. Bishop C.H Mason and The Mason Temple Church of God in Christ
930 Mason Street is home to the start of the Church of God in Christ. Founded by Bishop C.H Mason, who was born in 1862 on a plantation in Bartlett, TN, Mason Temple is an international sanctuary and the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. Mason Temple was also the church where thousands gathered to hear Martin Luther King Jr. give his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, on April 3, 1968. The Church of God in Christ is the largest African American Pentecostal church in the world. The Church of God in Christ has an estimated 6.5 million members, 12,000 congregations, churches in every state in the United States and in 62 other countries.
Historic Black Memphians pg. 21
6. Sanitation Workers’ Strike
In February of 1968, sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker were killed at work while trying to take shelter from the rain on the back of their work truck. The truck malfunctioned and crushed both men to death, the city of Memphis refused to provide financial compensation to the families. Workers had already been complaining of faulty work equipment, so the death of these two men, low wages, and long work hours without overtime fueled the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968. This strike gained the support of many, but it would be the support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP that would give this cause national coverage. The strike began on February 12,1968, with 1,300 black sanitation workers. Strikers and supporters would perform sit-ins, rallies, and marches where protesters would be seen wearing the infamous “I Am A Man” sandwich board signs. Although Dr. King would be assassinated during the strike the support and efforts would be picked up by his wife and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King. Days after the assassination, she and other leaders returned to Memphis to support the workers. It would be two weeks after the death of MLK when the city and sanitation workers would come to an agreement to end the strike.
7. T.O. fuller state Park and Rev. Thomas O. Fuller
T.O. Fuller State Park was established in 1938 as the Shelby County Negro State Park, making it the first state park built for African Americans east of the Mississippi. During segregation, African Americans didn’t have equal access to recreational spaces parks such as T.O Fuller were built to reduce the lack of access. T.O. Fuller State Park is named after beloved Memphis resident Rev. Thomas O. Fuller. Thomas Fuller was a pastor, activist, and principal of Howe Institute, a private educational facility for African Americans, for almost thirty years. This park is one of three southern state parks built for African Americans that is still in operation and functioning under its original name. See what events are happening and how you can visit T.O. fuller State Park by clicking the link below.
8. Ida B. Wells and Memphis Free Speech
Ida B. Wells was an African American journalist, educator, and activist born in holly springs, MS in 1862. Shortly after losing both of her parents to yellow fever, Wells along with her siblings moved to Memphis to stay with an aunt. While in Memphis, she would become part-owner of the city’s African American newspaper called “Memphis Free Speech”. Published in the Memphis Free Speech would be her very vocal views on lynchings and unfair treatment of blacks in Memphis. This would ignite the start of her anti-lynching campaign. Due to the unfair treatment, Wells encouraged blacks to leave Memphis. Her call to vacate Memphis and writings about lynching enraged white residents so much that in 1892 a white mob burned down her office. Wells wasn’t present during the burning but was told if she ever returned, she would be killed. She didn’t return to the south for 30 years. After leaving, she would continue her fight against lynching, start a family, become the founder of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, and more. In July of 2021, a statue of Ida B. Wells was unveiled in downtown Memphis at the Ida b. Wells Plaza on Beale Street.
9. Stax Records & Soulsville USA
Stax is an American record label that was extremely influential in the creation of soul music. Started right here in Memphis in 1960, siblings Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton moved their record company (Satellite Records) from Brunswick, TN to a former movie theatre on McLemore Ave in South Memphis. Stax would gain its first local hit with a song called “Cause I Love You” by Rufus and Carla Thomas selling 40,000 copies and leading them to a distribution deal with Atlantic. The distribution deal helped them get their records into stores. In the '60s Stax recorded records with artists such as Otis Redding, Booker T. & The MGs, Sam and Dave, The Emotions, Soul children, and Issac Hayes. The 1970s would bring Stax major heat by adding songs to its catalog like “Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight, “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers, and Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone” by Johnnie Taylor. Filled with success, Stax would soon fall upon hard times. They would be forced into bankruptcy in 1975, and although they didn’t go down without fighting, the studio wouldn’t bounce back. It would become vacant until 1981 and was torn down in 1989. Even though we no longer have the original building Stax Museum of American Soul Music still sits on the sacred ground that was once home to so much music, creativity, and power. That energy still fills that neighborhood and the museum building. Whenever you get the opportunity please go visit the museum and learn all about Soulsville USA.
Memphis is home to the first radio station in the United States that offered programming exclusively for the African American community. WDIA went on air on June 7, 1947, and around 1948 would have its first black DJ, Nathaniel D. Williams. Throughout the years' other black radio personalities would join the family and the station would feature black entertainers, news, and even led and supported projects that benefited the African American community. WDIA relocated in 1985 but the neon marquee station sign would remain at the original location of its former studio at 112 Union Avenue near Main Street. Still active, you can tune in Monday – Sunday on 1070 AM!
11. Burkle Estate
Memphis historians attribute this estate to being one of the many homes apart of the anti-slavery moment. Now referred to as "Slave Haven", The Burkle Estate was owned by stockyard owner and German immigrant Jacob Burkle. From 1855 until the abolishing of slavery, Burkle assisted enslaved African Americans in escaping to freedom by operating an Underground Railroad way station. The Burkle home had a small cellar that was used as a hideout until a boat came to take passengers up north to free states.
12. Memphis Massacre of 1866
In May of 1866, the city of Memphis would endure a deadly massacre. Led by white mobs, that included Memphis police and fireman, storming into black communities causing despair and chaos. This riot would last 3 days, leaving at least 46 dead, 285 injured, every African American school and church burned down, homes and businesses burned and robbed, and at least 5 black women were raped. The massacre occurred after an alleged altercation involving a black soldier and a white policeman. The events of 1866 would leave Memphis’ black community in ruin but it would also upset congress, so much so that it would lead to a Civil Rights Bill of 1866 and the 14 Amendment.
Remembering the Memphis Massacre
Edited by Beverly Greene Bond and Susan Eva O’Donovan
A Massacre in Memphis: The Race Riot That Shook the Nation One Year After The Civil War
by Stephen v. Ash
13. Tom Lee
Did you know that Tom Lee Park is named after an African American man? On May 8, 1925, a boat containing 72 passengers of the Engineers Club of Memphis capsized during its voyage along the Mississippi River. Luckily for them, Tom Lee would also be traveling along the Mississippi that day in his small wooden boat, Zev. Lee, who didn’t know how to swim but was a river worker so knew the waters well, would see the wreckage, and be able to rescue 32 people from drowning. His boat was so small that he had to make multiple trips to shore to aide passengers. News of the wreckage would reach Memphis and other assistance followed. Tom Lee continued to assist in the rescue mission until the next day but when the time came for him to be recognized he would be nowhere to be found. Eventually, he would be located and rewarded for his heroic efforts with a house from the Memphis Engineers club, a job as a sanitation worker, and double the standard pension when he retired. Tom Lee Park is currently under construction but the statue in his honor remains.
Although WDIA is Memphis’ first radio station with programming exclusively for the black community it would WLOK that would become Memphis' first black-owned radio station. Getting its start in 1956, WLOK would undergo many changes before becoming black-owned. Starting with going from WBCR to WLOK after being sold to a Louisiana station. WLOK was Memphis’ second radio station that offered programming to a black audience but was said to have the attention of the younger generation while WDIA served the parents. In the 70s workers would go on strike demanding better pay, working conditions, and the station become more involved in the black community. The strike would last for 10 days but resulted in the workers getting a black station manager, a community information center, the station partnering with organizations like Operation PUSH, and more. In 1977 Art Gilliam bought the station making WLOK black-owned. In the 80s WLOK would change from bringing the city its latest R& B hits to nothing but gospel. For more history on the station or to find its production schedule click the link below.
If you're interested in more Memphis history here are a few books that I found at the
Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library:
Historic Black Memphis
A Massacre In Memphis
Memphis: 200 Year Together
Remembering The Memphis Massacre
The Secret Life of Photographer Ernest Withers
Photographs from the Memphis World 1949-1968