Archive | Travel RSS feed for this section

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


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 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:

Lost – High Rock Church and Cemetery Montgomery County, Virginia

7 Jul

As you know I am currently spending my summer traveling and doing research on rural African American neighborhoods. While speaking with a professor at Virginia Tech I was told the story of the High Rock Church. The High Rock Church is located in a small town named Pilot in Montgomery County, Virginia. Of all the cemeteries I have visited this has got to be one of the worst. From what I know the church was founded by freed men and women who also established a cemetery on the grounds. Today, the wilderness has taken over the cemetery leaving our brothers and sisters buried under weeds, grass, and even fallen trees. Here are a few pictures of the High Rock Church and cemetery. May they never be forgotten. 

High Rock Cemetery

High Rock Cemetery


High Rock Cemetery - the high rock after which the church and cemetery took their name

High Rock Cemetery – the high rock after which the church and cemetery took their name


High Rock Cemetery - Lost headstone

High Rock Cemetery – Lost headstone


High Rock Cemetery - Headstones lost among the woods

High Rock Cemetery – Headstones lost among the woods


High Rock Cemetery - Jane and Harriet Howard

High Rock Cemetery – Jane and Harriet Howard


High Rock Church

High Rock Church

Headstone lost among the woods

Headstone lost among the woods


High Rock Cemetery - Buried headstones

High Rock Cemetery – Buried headstones


High Rock Cemetery - John Howard Age 115 years

High Rock Cemetery – John Howard Age 115 years


High Rock Cemetery

High Rock Cemetery


Know of any other forgotten, lost, abandoned cemeteries? Please let me know. I am interested in documenting all of them that I can find.


– Tiffany

– Source: Photo Source: My own

Programming Note

6 Jun

Hello everyone,

I am spending my summer traveling doing research, so the posts on the site will not be as frequent. As always if you have any stories that you would like to share on the blog, please feel free to send me an email at .



Thanks for understanding,



10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley, TN

28 Mar

I’ve decided to start a new series for the blog called 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley. This is the first entry in this series.

1. Ripley was known for the largest African American Labor Day Celebration in the United States

My husband always made sure that we made it to Ripley every year for Labor Day. When I would ask why he would always say “Everybody comes home for Labor Day.” True enough, we would bump into his old friends and his family would always come into town. I thought about this memory as I read through Kate Johnston Peters “Lauderdale County From Earliest Times”. Peters mentions that Ripley had the largest Black Labor Day Celebration in all of the United States. This event was planned and directed by Blacks with supervision from three White men. The book does not state what year this celebration began, but it does state that it moved to Rice Park, which was donated to the Black community by WGL Rice. There aren’t very many details about what this celebration included. Did they have contests, pageants, games, a parade, etc? I wonder if my husband’s insistence on visiting Ripley every Labor Day somehow stems from a tradition started in the Black community in Ripley.

Labor Day in Ripley the year Rice Park opened

Labor Day in Ripley the year Rice Park opened


Do you have memories of big Labor Day celebrations in Ripley? I’d love to hear them.


– Tiffany

– Source: Kate Johnston Peters “Lauderdale County From Earliest Times” page 134.

– Image Source: Kate Johnston Peters “Lauderdale County From Earliest Times”. Picture taken the first year Rice Park was opened.

TWB – Traveling While Black – Another Follow Up

28 Mar

Awhile back I posted on the listings that one could find in the Negro Motorist Green Book for establishments in Memphis, TN. Below are some of the ads I found in the Memphis Negro Yearbook and Business Directory for 1949. If I find more information on these businesses and others featured in the Negro Motorists Green Book I’ll be sure to post.



Mitchell Hotel 160 Hernando St


Marquette Hotel 507 Linden

Both of these hotels are owned by Black women. I wonder if there is a backstory there. I will continue searching for pictures of the actual establishments.

– Tiffany

– Source:  Negro Yearbook and Business Directory 1949 (Memphis & Shelby County Room – Benjamin Hooks Library)

TWB – Traveling While Black – Follow Up

3 Jan

In my last post title Traveling While Black a reader left a comment asking if any of the businesses featured in the Negro Motorists Green Book were still around. Being a lifelong Memphian the only business listed there that I still knew of was the Lorraine Motel which is now the National Civil Rights Museum. From this point I started putting the addresses of these businesses in Google Maps to see if any of the buildings were still around. I did discover that the Mrs. E.M. Wright’s Tourist Home located at 896 Polk Avenue in Memphis in the 1956 Green Book is still standing. I decided against posting a picture of it, but you can easily find a picture of it through Google Maps. According to property records the home at that address was built in 1913 and it has 4 bedrooms, so Mrs. E. M. Wright had plenty of space to rent out. While it is no longer Mrs. E.M. Wright’s Tourist Home it is home to another Memphis family. I wonder if this family has any idea what their home used to be.

Negro Motorist Green Book 1956

Negro Motorist Green Book 1956

– Tiffany