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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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Is This the Murder of Richard Thurmond?

9 Sep

Below is a photo of a lynching on the Ripley courthouse square. The photo’s caption lists a date of 1897. I searched through newspapers and have not yet located a mention of a hanging in Ripley, TN in 1897.

Lynching in Ripley, TN 1897

Lynching in Ripley, TN 1897

 

However, I found a mention of the lynching of Richard Thurmond in The Daily Capital Journal of Salem, Oregon reported August 9, 1898. Is this year of this photo mislabeled? Could this be Richard Thurmond?

 

Daily Capital Journal Salem, Oregon August 9, 1868

Daily Capital Journal Salem, Oregon August 9, 1868

 

Adding more pieces to this puzzle is the fact that The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reported this murder as occurring in Ripley, Mississippi, which also happens to be only a 30 minute drive to Middleton, TN where Richard Thurmond was captured. A quick search through census did not return any favorable leads connecting Richard Thurmond and LD Hines to Ripley, TN or Ripley, MS.

 

-Tiffany

-Image Source: “We Shall Overcome”: Tennessee and the Civil Rights Movement by Cynthia Griggs Fleming featured in Tennessee Historical Quarterly Vol 54, No. 3 (Fall 1995) page 234, Looking Back at Tennessee Collection Tennessee State Library and Archives

The 1978 Miss Black Ripley Pageant

9 Sep

Anyone remember The Miss Black Ripley Pageants?

As I have looked for information on them,  I cannot help but think of what a source of pride these pageants were for the Black community. Starting in 1977 with sponsorship by the Nathaniel Lodge No. 216 and coordinated by James T. Pitts of Pitts Barbershop, these pageants featured Black female contestants in a swimsuit competition, talent competition, formal wear competition, and a question and answer competition.

The first year of The Miss Black Ripley Pageant was 1977 with Jackie Springfield being crowned winner.

The second year, 1978, the pageant was coordinated by James T. Pitts with assistance from Linda Russell, Christine Shaw, and Linda Cooper. On April 16, 1978 at 6:00 pm the Ripley High School Little Theater hosted the pageant. It was also sponsored by The Nathaniel Lodge No. 216. The contestants of the 1978 pageant were Johnnie M. Parker, Mary Owens, Carolyn Graves, Rose Parker, Rose M. Bonds, and Geraldine Clay.

In 1978 the pageant was won by Geraldine Clay with Rose Bonds, Carolyn Graves, and Rose Parker as runner-ups.

New Miss Black Ripley 1978

New Miss Black Ripley 1978

          From The Lauderdale County Enterprise April 26, 1978 Edition

 The 1978 pageant booklet contains the names and advertisements of various additional sponsors and businesses such as Berg and Shafer, Thompson’s Mortuary, Pitts Barbershop, Malone’s Bar-B-Q, Rozelle Criner Furniture Company, Halls Flower and Gift Shop, and Montgomery and Son Plumbing among others. Stroll through the 1978 pageant booklet below.

– Tiffany

– Source: 1978 Miss Black Ripley Pageant Booklet, The Lauderdale County Enterprise April 26, 1978 edition

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

Newspaper Clippings – The Southern Christian Advocate Nov 18, 1880

13 Oct

With the end of enslavement, many freedmen and women set out to find their family and friends that they were separated from. One method of doing so was to place ads in newspapers seeking information on lost loved ones. One of these ads with a Lauderdale County connection is below.

"Lost Friends" November 18, 1880 in the Southern Christian Advocate

“Lost Friends” November 18, 1880 in the Southern Christian Advocate

What is interesting about this ad to me is that it was written in 1880, fifteen years after the end of enslavement. This ad and the countless others like it exemplify not only the brutality of slavery, but also the resounding commitment of those searching to find loved ones that they were for forcibly separated from.

I encourage you to check out the collection of adverstisements featured in the Southern Christian Advocate newspaper through the Historic New Orleans Collection – Historic New Orleans Collection

 

Tiffany

Source: The Historic New Orleans Collection – http://www.hnoc.org/database/lost-friends/index.html, newspaper clipping featured in the Southern Christian Advocate Nov 18, 1880 edition.

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

Newspaper Clippings – Jackson Whig and Tribune August 23, 1873 edition

5 Mar

Below is a newspaper clipping from the Whig and Tribune (Jackson, TN) August 23, 1873 edition.

Whig and Tribune (Jackson, TN) August 23, 1873 edition

Whig and Tribune (Jackson, TN) August 23, 1873 edition

 

In looking at this article I began to wonder what exact place was within three miles of Ripley and honestly that could have been so many places. This event occurred towards the end of the Reconstruction period, so it’s not surprising that it happened. What is inspiring is that African Americans were busy building institutions in the area and that education was a priority, even though there were those who sought to ruin it.

1873 also happens to be the year that Sampson Keeble was the first African American elected to the Tennessee state legislature.

 

 

– Tiffany

– Source: Whig and Tribune (Jackson, TN) August 23, 1873 edition