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Pop Up Museum @ The 2014 Lauderdale County Tomato Festival – Recap

14 Jul

As mentioned about a week ago Black Ripley sponsored a Pop Up Museum at the 2014 Lauderdale County Tomato Festival. We were there from about 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. I’d like to thank each and every person that stopped by to share their memories of the area.


Welcome Sign


From those memories I was able to learn a lot about the area.

Memories included:

– Tiny, the little person, who worked at either Joe’s or Pitts barbecue spot as a car hop

– A riot at Ripley High School the year of integration

– Life growing up in Arp, Golddust, Durhamville, and Orysa

– Stories of the Great Migration. Families moving North and sending their children back South to Ripley every summer

– Sharecropping on the Eugene Anthony, E.L. Queen, and Eylau farms

– Stories of “The Hole” and the people and businesses that were there

– Recollections of past Labor Days and the Miss Black Ripley Pageants

– Sitting in the balconies of local movie theaters and eating ice cream at the ice cream parlor that was located uptown

– Locating their childhood homes and current homes on a 1927 Sanborn Map

I’m sure all of these memories will make their way into a posting or two ūüôā


There were a variety of items surpassing many years on display.

Geraldine Clay and painting

Geraldine Clay and drawing by her grandson of her life in Durhamville in the 1920s – 1930s

Miss Black Ripley Display

Miss Black Ripley Display with information on pageants from 1977 – 1979 along with pageant souvenir booklets. Also included were articles from the “10 Things” series.

Table Display

Table Display featuring Alex Haley’s Warner Bros records on Roots, a wooden nickle from JT Williams grocery, a school book published in 1890 from the area.

Table Display

Table Display featuring “Finding the Good” book by Lucas Johnson on the life of Fred Montgomery, home run baseball from a 2002 RHS baseball game and an article about the game.

Tent Set Up

Tent Set Up

Sanborn Map Display

Sanborn Map Display

It was a great day. I’m very grateful for the participation and encouragement that was received.




– Tiffany

– Photo Source: My Own


From the Bottom Documentary

10 Mar

I recently discovered a documentary titled “From the Bottom” discussing the life of Ulysses “Rip” Gooch, a Lauderdale County native. A trailer for the documentary can be found on and I have included it below.

If you would like to purchase the documentary it is available through using the following link ->




– Tiffany

West Tennessee and the Great Migration

2 Sep

The Great Migration is commonly known as the time period of 1915 Р1970 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 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:

Book Review – Finding the Good by Lucas L. Johnson II

7 Jul

A few months ago I had the opportunity to attend the Writers Day¬† program at the Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center located in Henning, TN. While there I purchased a book called Finding the Good by Lucas L. Johnson II. It is based on the life of Fred Montgomery, a friend of Alex Haley’s, former Henning mayor, and former¬†curator of the Alex Haley Museum. I was so fascinated by the life of Fred¬†Montgomery that I read the book in one sitting. Not only is it a biography of sorts, but there are details of the author’s life included as well as history related to people and places in Henning, TN.

The book itself is titled after Alex Haley’s famous saying “Find the good and praise it”. There are many interesting parts of the book including the stories of¬†racist treatment from the men who employed Fred’s family as sharecroppers, Fred’s struggles with the deaths of his children, childhood stories about Fred and Alex, actions of the¬†local KKK,¬†details of early African American¬†education in Henning, TN, pictures of Fred and his wife Earnestine, and other stories that allow the reader to understand Henning, TN during the¬†Jim Crow era.


Finding the Good by Lucas L. Johnson II

Finding the Good by Lucas L. Johnson II


Mr. Fred Montgomery died July 12, 2006, but his memory will live on through this book and the countless lives he touched. I recommend this book to anyone looking to learn about African American life in Henning, TN.

Finding the Good on Amazon –


– Tiffany

– Image Source: my own

Newspaper Clippings – Commercial Appeal Feb 25, 1888

17 Apr

I came across this clipping back in February and thought I would share.

Blacks Recruited for California

Blacks Recruited for California




I wonder if any of our West TN friends were recruited by this gentleman to work in California.


– Tiffany

– Source: The Commercial Appeal February 25, 2013 edition

Jet Magazine – September 25, 1952

20 Jan

I can’t say that I am surprised that the Black schools were closed so that the children could help pick cotton.

Jet Magazine September 25, 1952

Jet Magazine September 25, 1952

More telling is the line describing the schools that stayed open because those children’s parents were involved in industry, business, or domestic work jobs.

A few of the schools that would have closed are

Booker T. Washington High School

Melrose High School

Manassas High School

Douglass High School

I hope to find more documentation of the other Blacks schools of this time that would have closed due to King Cotton.


– Tiffany

Soruce: Jet Magazine September 25, 1952

Newspaper Clippings – Haywood County Elected Officials

6 Jan

I came across this article about two African Americans being elected to office in Haywood County, TN. I was drawn to this article because Haywood County in the 1960s had a lot of racial tensions related to African Americans being allowed to vote.

The Gadsden Times August 5, 1966

The Gadsden Times August 5, 1966

Land¬†owners in Haywood County had been forcing African Americans¬†who attempted to register to vote off of their sharecropping farms. Many of those forced off of their farms ended up living in “Tent Cities”. In 1962 50 land owners in Haywood County¬†settled out of court for violating the 1957 Civil Rights Acts because of their roles in voter intimidation among other things. These landowners had been using economic pressure to prevent African Americans¬†from registering to vote. Under the 1962 settlements these landowners agreed not to interfere¬†with African Americans who attempted to register to vote.



-Source: The Gasden Times August 5, 1966 edition