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Miles Vandahurst Lynk and the University of West Tennessee

13 Jun

My dissertation research on historically Black college and university (HBCU) architecture often leads me to places I did not expect.  It often leads me to defunct HBCUs, and one of these schools is the University of West Tennessee. I first discovered this school several years ago while reading GP Hamilton’s The Bright Side of Memphis book. This book featured a quick history of the school and its founder Miles V. Lynk. This past spring while researching the UWT I quickly discovered how intertwined the school and its founder actually were. You see in many ways Miles V. Lynk was the school and he also happened to be a native of Haywood County, TN.

              Miles V. Lynk

Lynk had quite the exciting life as detailed in his autobiography, Sixty Years of Medicine; Or, The Life and Times of Dr. Miles V. Lynk, an Autobiography.

A few quick facts about Lynk,

He was born in Haywood County, TN on June 3, 1871, to formerly enslaved parents

He received his certificate to teach school in Haywood County at the age of 13.

At the age of 17, he enrolled at Meharry Medical College.

He was named after two CME Church bishops, William Henry Miles and Richard H. Vandahurst

He published the first medical journal for African American physicians known as The Medical and Surgical Observer

In 1900 he founded the University of West Tennessee in Jackson, TN and later relocated the school to Memphis in 1907.

The State of Tennessee honored him and the University of West Tennessee with a historical marker in 1996 in Memphis at McLemore and Krayer Streets.

 

 

 His autobiography details his life growing up on a farm outside of Brownsville, TN. In the text, he describes the death of his father and his quest to find employment as a school teacher before enrolling at Meharry Medical College. Because he was looking for employment in Fayette County, Tennessee, Lynk soon discovered that his teaching certificate would only be accepted if he could find a white man to refer him.  Of this experience, Lynk stated, “That struck me like a bombshell as I had never been in the employ of a white man; in fact, my abhorrence for slavery was so great that I would never hire to one for money” (24). One of the men that Lynk reached out to for a reference happened to be the man who enslaved his father who then refused to give him a reference. Lynk described how this encounter influenced him and how he prayed to the Lord that he’d never have to do anything like it again.

 

 

By 1908 when the University of West Tennessee relocated to Memphis and was featured in GP Hamilton’s The Bright Side of Memphis Hamilton described the school as “two commodious and well-arranged buildings known as North and South Hall respectively… The grounds and buildings are valued at $15,000” (258). However, according to reports the school struggled and found itself described as “without merit” and “ineffectual” according to a report known as the Flexner Report written in 1910 which provided detailed accounts of medical schools.

 

 

Despite this, the UWT graduated about 155 students before closing in 1924. After living a very accomplished life, Lynk passed away in Memphis on December 29, 1956, at age of eighty-six.

 

Article on the University of West Tennessee in the Memphis, TN newspaper The News Scimitar January 16, 1920

Google Map showing the University of West Tennessee Historical Marker at the corner of McLemore and Krayer Streets

 

-Tiffany

 

Sources:

Flexner, Abraham. “Medical Education in the United States and Canada.” New York, New York, 1910. http://archive.carnegiefoundation.org/pdfs/elibrary/Carnegie_Flexner_Report.pdf.

 

 

Hamilton, Green Polonius. The Bright Side of Memphis: A Compendium of Information Concerning the Colored People of Memphis, Tennessee, Showing Their Achievements in Business, Industrial and Professional Life and Including Articles of General Interest on the Race. Memphis, Tennessee, 1908.

 

 

Lynk, Miles V. Sixty Years of Medicine;: Or, The Life and Times of Dr. Miles V. Lynk, an Autobiography. Twentieth Century Press, 1951.

 

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Newspaper Clippings – The Pittsburgh Courier July 9, 1932 Edition

29 Jul

Below is a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier from Pastor SHM Lee of the St. Paul AME Church in Youngstown, Ohio.

The Pittsburgh Courier 9 July 1932 page 10

I found Wallace McClish/McCleish in the 1940 US Census living in Brownsville on Church Street with his wife Inez. His occupation is listed as “traffic police”. By 1960 McClish had relocated and was living in Memphis, Tennessee as an employee at an apartment complex. I wonder what compelled him to leave his field of law enforcement. A quick search for Tom Devine in the Haywood County and Lauderdale County areas yielded no results.

 

– Tiffany

Source: The Pittsburgh Courier July 9, 1932 edition page 10, 1940 US Census for Haywood County, Tennessee, 1960 Memphis City Directory

Fourth of July at the Lauderdale County Jail

2 Jul

In the spirit of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday I decided to see if I could find any information on past Fourth of July holidays in Ripley. Reading through the Lauderdale County Enterprise I found the article below discussing events at the Lauderdale County Jail on July 4, 1917.

Lauderdale County Enterprise July 6, 1917

Lauderdale County Enterprise July 6, 1917

Using the US Census I found two Horace Walkers living in neighboring Haywood County, Tennessee. They happened to be father and son. Horace Walker Sr. was born in 1846 in North Carolina and was married to Mary Walker. Horace Walker Jr. was born in 1880 in Tennessee. In addition to these two Horace Walkers I also found another Horace Walker born in 1876 in Haywood County son of Thomas Walker.  Thomas Walker (B. 1850 North Carolina) could possibly be brother of Horace Walker Sr. (Horace Walker Sr. also had a son named Thomas), but more information and research is needed to make that connection. To make this easier I found Horace Walker Sr. (father), Horace Walker Jr. (son), and Horace Walker (possible nephew/cousin). An interesting note is that Horace Walker (possible cousin/nephew – B. 1876) and his wife Nervie were living in Lauderdale County in 1920. With that being said its unclear which Horace Walker found himself imprisoned in the Lauderdale County Jail on the Fourth of July. It could have very well been another Horace Walker who did not appear on my search of the US Census.

I did not find an African American Charles Ed Moore on the US Census. I found a few white Charles Moores in Haywood County and one in Lauderdale County. This made me wonder if there was any separation based on race at the county jail. I would think that there was given the time period.

So on the Fourth of July 1917 at the Lauderdale County Jail shenanigans broke out amongst the prisoners. Looks like Charles Ed Moore might have gotten what was coming to him.

 

 

 

 

– Tiffany

– Source: The Lauderdale County Enterprise July 6, 1917 edition, US Census 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920

Newspaper Clippings – St. Petersburg Times May 26, 1962

17 Oct
StPetersburgTimes05-26-1962

StPetersburgTimes05-26-1962

StPetersburgTimes05-26-1962-2

StPetersburgTimes05-26-1962-3

– Tiffany

– Source: St. Petersburg Times May 26, 1962 via Google News Archive

West Tennessee and the Great Migration

2 Sep

The Great Migration is commonly known as the time period of 1915 – 1970 when an estimated 6 million African Americans fled the South to the North, the West, and the Mid West. These African Americans were in search of a better life, free from the poor jobs, poor education, and Jim Crow that was standard in the South. Often we see African Americans leaving the south due to potential retaliation and threats on their life from Whites on some action they might have taken. What this migration did was allow the children who made this journey to flourish in ways that might not have been possible had they stayed in the South.

The African Americans of Ripley and West Tennessee also followed the trails of The Great Migration. Many of these African American families moved to Detroit, Chicago, and other northern and midwestern cities. In my own family I can count 6 of 8 siblings leaving Ripley behind for Detroit.

So what do these patterns of migration tell us?

During this period of time little pockets of West Tennessee could be found in several different cities. The small towns of Ripley, Brownsville and others spread their culture and way of life to several places.

A quick search on Ancestry.com turned up records of thousands upon thousands of African Americans who left West Tennessee for the North. Here are a few of them.

1. Elias Norvell born 1871 in Ripley, TN son of Alex and Polly Norvell. On the 1930 US Census Elias can be found in Willoughby, Ohio with his wife Elsie and their four children.

2. Rawlings Bond was born about 1888 in Haywood County, TN son of Haywood and Mary Bond. His WWI Draft Registration Card completed in 1917 indicated that he was a self-employed farmer. Rawlings and his wife Bessie Southall Bond make an appearance on the 1920 US Census in Haywood County, but by the 1930 US Census they had relocated to Detroit, Michigan where Rawlings was now employed as an Expressman in the Cartage (transporting goods) industry.

3. Love Campbell was born about 1893 in Brownsville, TN. His 1917 WWI Draft Registration Card indicates that he was married and employed in a workhouse in Jackson, TN. On the 1930 US Census Love makes an appearance as a lodger living in Detroit, Michigan working as a laborer in an auto plant. On the 1940 US Census Love is still in Detroit and is now working as a cement mixer at a construction company.

As you can see the job opportunities that existed in the North were far better than any jobs to be found in West Tennessee. Can you imagine barely scraping together a living as a sharecropper on someone else’s land and then going to Detroit and securing a job in an auto plant? The good fortunes of these individuals more than likely influenced close family and friends to join them. Interestingly, many of those who migrated first made their homes in boarding houses and can be found on the US Censuses as lodgers.

The stories of these 3 individuals barely scratches the surface of the stories of those who left West Tennessee for other areas. In the future I plan to do a more in depth study on the West Tennessee participants of the Great Migration.

What about your own family? Do you have relatives who left West Tennessee for the better conditions in other parts of the US?

 

 

– Tiffany

– Sources: US Census Records 1880 – 1940, Tennessee State Marriage Records, WWI Draft Registration Cards

– Image Source: http://www.centerstage.org/portals/23/images/Great-Migration.jpg

Jet Magazine – August 27, 1959

7 Jul

Jet Magazine Aug 27, 1959

Jet Magazine Aug 27, 1959

According to US Census Records for 1940 Willie Jones lived with his siblings Minnie and Walter Jones and his mother Mary Jones. His occupation was listed as that of an unpaid family worker. On the 1930 US Census he is listed as also living with his father Andrew and several more siblings. I found no listing for him on the Lynching Calender, but of course that source is not complete. For now it’s unclear what happened to Willie, but I do hope that he got his day in court (although court in 1959 was far from fair justice) instead of meeting his death at the hands of a vigilante mob. Quick thinking on behalf of his former lawyer, J. F. Estes, and the unidentified informant may have just saved Willie’s life. I did find several Willie M. Jones in the Social Security Death Index who could possibly be the Willie M. Jones mentioned in this case. They all lived to 1972 or later, so maybe he served his time and was released.

 

 

 

– Tiffany

– Source: Jet Magazine August 27, 1959 edition

Runaway Slave – Memphis Daily Appeal February 21, 1857

11 Apr

Memphis Daily Appeal February 21, 1857

RUNAWAY ARRESTED–
On Friday night, a negro was found secreted in the wood car of the passenger train, and was arrested and lodged in jail. He proved to be a slave owned by Mr. Samuel Whitney, of Haywood county. He was endeavoring to make his escape to this city, and from here to Cincinnati. He had laid in a supply of corn-bread, and had a bottle of whisky in his pocket.

 

Unfortunately, there was no record made of the slave’s name. I checked other sources such as the online Memphis Police Blotter, but these records don’t start until 1858. I checked for Samuel Whitney and I couldn’t find any records of him in Haywood County, TN. I did see that a man with that name lived in Kentucky, so maybe this is the same man and he just had a plantation in Haywood County as well as Kentucky.

 

Hopefully this slave wasn’t punished too bad when he made it back to Haywood County.

 

– Tiffany

– Source: Memphis Daily Appeal February 21, 1857