Tag Archives: Black culture

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


Miss Rice Park 1979

10 Aug

Anyone recognize any of these lovely ladies?

The Miss Rice Park competition was held in conjunction with a fashion show titled “Beautiful People in Fashions” to raise funds to improve Rice Park. Proceeds from this event went towards completing payments on a concession stand and tennis court construction. This event was held at Ripley High School and admission was $2 per person.


Miss Rice Park

Miss Rice Park – Lauderdale County Enterprise April 5, 1979 edition

Miss Rice Park Contestants – Cynthia Harris, Sharon Watkins, and Trenice Currie.

Little Miss Rice Park Contestants – Kenya Toles, Vera Thompson, and Angela Pierson


And for the winners…

Miss Rice Park Winners

Miss Rice Park Winners – Lauderdale County Enterprise April 12, 1979 edition

Little Miss Rice Park – Kenya Toles

Miss Rice Park – Cynthia Harris




– Tiffany

– Source: The Lauderdale County Enterprise April 12, 1979 edition, The Lauderdale County Enterprise April 5, 1979 edition

Colored Lodge – Benevolent Society

6 Jun

A while back I posted a newspaper clipping from the Nashville Union and American July 3, 1872 edition mentioning that the African Americans in Ripley had gotten together to form a Union League/Benevolent Society. You can find the original article here -> Newspaper Clippings – Nashville Union and American July 3, 1872.

Nashville Union and American July 3, 1872

Nashville Union and American July 3, 1872


While browsing through Sanborn Maps I noticed that one of the maps depicted a location known as the “Colored Lodge”. Could it have also been known as the Benevolent Society? Its location would have been right across the street from the First Baptist Church on Main Street next door to the present day location of Pitts Barbershop. I noticed that the Colored Lodge seems to be on the second story of this building with an undertaker on the first story. I’m curious to know who this undertaker might have been. Could this undertaker have catered to African Americans? The Hudson and Graham Funeral Home was not established until 1910 and Alex Clay of the Clay Funeral Home would have been a young child at this time.


Colored Lodge

Colored Lodge



By the 1891 Sanborn Map the heading for this location was no longer noted as “Colored Lodge”. The second story of this building was a furniture repair shop and the first story of this building was still occupied by an undertaker.


– Tiffany



Sources: 1887 and 1891 Sanborn Maps for Ripley, TN, Nashville Union and American July 3, 1872 edition

Hudson and Graham Funeral Home

5 Apr

Below is an ad that I found for the Hudson and Graham Funeral Home that catered to African Americans. This ad was featured in the 1958 Haywood, Lauderdale, and Tipton County Directory.


Hudson and Graham Funeral Home

Hudson and Graham Funeral Home


It’s unclear who exactly Hudson and Graham are and because this is an ad for 1958 I am unable to turn to the census to do a quick search. Does anyone remember the Hudson and Graham Funeral Home or where it might have been located?


– Tiffany

Source: Haywood, Lauderdale, and Tipton County Directory – 1958

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 Youtube.com and I have included it below.

If you would like to purchase the documentary it is available through Amazon.com using the following link -> http://amzn.com/B001RMLVOY




– Tiffany

Photos of Segregation in the South

17 Jan

I was reading one of my favorite blogs and came across an article on Gordon Parks. Gordon Parks was a nationally known photographer most known for capturing images related to American life. He was also the first African American hired as a staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine. I came across an article written about how some photos of his that were previously thought to be lost had been found. It turns out some of these photos had actually been published in Life Magazine as part of a series on segregation. These particular photos are from Mobile, Alabama and were taken in 1956. Although they are not photos related to our favorite West Tennessee towns they are photos depicting what life was like under segregation. Many of the scenes depicted are scenes that our parents, grand parents and others would have witnessed and experienced.

Some of the quotes in the Life Magazine article stood out to me. A few are below.

“Although the Thorntons are thoughtful, and in private, articulate, they do not make many direct statements about segregation. This is because they face yet another restraint – the constant fear of publicly speaking their minds”

“Mr. Causey does not vote. He has never been able to master the reading of The Bill of Rights in the constitution, which all Negroes in his county must do before they are permitted to register.”

“They must tell their children, for example, that they cannot play in a nearby playground for whites but must use a “seperate but equal” one for Negroes. The children do not grasp the logic of this and view the white playground as a special, wonderful place from which they are being deliberately excluded.”

You can view some of the photos and read the backstory featured in The New York Times here:

NY Times

You can view the original Life Magazine article here:

The Restraints: Open and Hidden

You can view more on Gordon Parks and his work here:



– Tiffany

Sources: The New York Times, Life Magazine September 24, 1956 issue, Gordon Parks Foundation

Roark Bradford – Author on Black Lauderdale County Experiences?

22 May

Roark Bradford was a White fiction writer. He was born in Lauderdale County, TN in 1896 and lived on his family’s cotton plantation in the Nankipoo-Knob Creek area. He went on to write several fictional stories of African-Americans. He was greatly influenced by the African-Americans who worked on his family’s plantation and the African-Americans he attended church with. Their stories became his stories and he used these stories to create his writings. It is thought that some of his writings were just re-tellings of Bible stories using the dialect of African-Americans at the time. He is said to have had a great interest in African-American dialect and culture.

So why is Bradford being mentioned on my blog? I stumbled across his name in some notes I had taken awhile back. I had written in my notes 

“Roark Bradford, Lauderdale County Author on Black Experiences”.

When I googled him this morning I have to admit I was less than thrilled. I have not yet done a thorough analysis of his writings, so I won’t go there now, but I can see how his writings would have been popular during the era in which they were written. I discovered a newspaper article that was written about Bradford with his participation. The article titled “Writer of Negro Stories Threw His Calendar Away. Roark Bradford, Author of The Green Pastures, Won’t Be Slave to Time” was published in the Milwaukee Journal November 4, 1941. What I found most interesting about the article were the portions of the article were African-Americans were mentioned.

I wonder if his “Negro playmates” Algy, Ed, and Sweet and Old Uncle Wes, who worked on his father’s plantation, know that they might have inspired some of his stories. I would be interested in learning more about his father’s plantation and the African-Americans who worked there. Who were these individuals that inspired Bradford’s stories? What were their lives like? What became of his playmates Algy, Ed, and Sweet? What church did he attend as a child that was integrated?

I look forward to discovering the answers to my questions on the life of Roark Bradford.

Source: The Milwaukee Journal. Tuesday, November 4, 1941. Article written by Austin Doyle (AP)

– Tiffany