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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 – Jet Magazine June 9, 1955 Edition

1 Feb

Below is a clipping from Jet Magazine’s June 9, 1955 Edition.

JetMagazineJune91955

 

 

 

– Tiffany

-Source: Jet Magazine June 9, 1955 edition via Google Books

Freedom Summer 1964

25 Jun

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer. Freedom Summer was a massive undertaking that sought to register as many African American voters in the state of Mississippi as possible. The groups behind Freedom Summer sought as many individuals, mainly students, to participate in the activities. These activities included voter registration, Freedom Schools, and community centers in Mississippi to encourage voter registration and education. It was without a doubt a dangerous job to take with 3 volunteers killed at the very start of Freedom Summer. Knowing that the 50th Anniversary was approaching I decided to see if I could find participants from West Tennessee. I found the following names listed on the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

 

1. Gloria Bishop – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Assigned to Canton/Madison County, Mississippi Rural

2. Rev. Edward L Brown – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Clergy sponsored by the National Council of Churches

3. Ed Hamlett – Jackson, TN – Volunteer – White Community Project

4. James Nance – Trenton, TN – Volunteer – Assigned to Hattiesburg, Mississippi

5. Jewelene Owens – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Assigned to Jackson, Mississippi – Voter Registration

6. Gwendolyn Robinson – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Assigned to Laurel, Mississippi – Freedom Center

6. Rev. William SMith – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Clergy sponsored by the National Council of Churches

 

I do not believe that the list provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society is conclusive. There certainly could have been more participants from West Tennessee as there were 1000+ volunteers. What is known is that these participating individuals were very brave to fight to secure the fundamental right to vote for African Americans in Mississippi. At the conclusion of the summer 1600 African Americans were successfully registered. While that may not seem like a large number it truly was given the type of place Mississippi was at the time. The next year in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act which sought to protect individuals from discrimination at the voting polls.

 

– Tiffany

Source – Wisconsin Historical Society

Genealogy Look Ups

22 Feb

I’ve been brainstorming ways that I could further my research on the Black community in the West Tennessee area. I’ve decided that with the amount of time I spend there that I should begin doing genealogy look ups. If you have information that you need assistance with that can only be found by actually visiting the West TN area, please let me know and I will be happy to assist. Please leave your details in the comments section.

I hope everyone has been enjoying their Black History Month so far.

– Tiffany

Higher Education

16 Dec

As a graduate of Tennessee State University which is an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) I began to wonder about Black college graduates from Ripley and the surrounding areas during segregation. Of course these individuals would have had to have attended HBCUs. I decided to do a search of Tennessee’s HBCUs to see if I could find graduates from the Ripley area.

I decided to start with a quick search of Tennessee State University commencement records.

1932 Graduates of Tennessee State University
Dupree D. Davis – Jackson, TN
James C. Jones – Henning, TN
George A. Newbern – Jackson, TN

1935 Graduates of Tennessee State University
Johnnie Turner Baker – Dyersburg, TN
George Charles Newbern – Dyersburg, TN

1936 Graduates of Tennessee State University
Kathaleen F. McCadden – Elementary Education – Covington, TN
Ida Belle Powell – Home Economics – Jackson, TN
Arthur Lee Robinson – Agriculture – Dyersburg, TN

Other Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Tennessee include,

Fisk Univeristy – Nashville
Lane College – Jackson
Lemoyne Owen – Memphis
Knoxville College – Knoxville
Meharry Medical College – Nashville

Over the course of the next few weeks I hope to do more research into the Black college graduates from this area.

Source: Tennessee State University Digital Archives Records – http://www.tnstate.edu/library/digitalresources/commencements.aspx

– Tiffany

The New Grand Theatre – Jackson, TN

21 Nov

I found this ad in The Freeman Illustrated Colored Newspaper June 29, 1912 edition.

New Grand Theatre June 29, 1912 – The Freeman Illustrated Colored Newspaper

Because the ad was found in a Black newspaper I’d take a guess that the New Grand Theatre might have been an establishment for Blacks or an establishment that did not mind having Black acts perform. Has anyone heard of this theater? I did a quick google search, but did not turn up with any leads.

 

– Tiffany