Tag Archives: memphis

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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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

West Tennessee Mysteries – Bessie Coleman Visits Memphis, TN

3 May

This is the first edition of the West Tennessee Mysteries series and it is coming to us courtesy of Memphis, TN. If you have a mystery you would like to see featured here, please feel free to contact me.

Bessie Coleman’s Memphis Visit

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was the world’s first African American female pilot. On October 12, 1922 Bessie Coleman flew in Memphis, TN in front of a crowd at the Tri-State Fair. Coleman refused to fly for segregated crowds, so her show in Memphis had to be integrated. Thousands of people came out to see Coleman perform and the Memphis show was considered a success. A few mysteries remain about Coleman’s trip to Memphis. While at a luncheon Coleman’s trip was brought to my attention by a woman who was interested in learning more about it. She was interested in knowing where Coleman stayed, what might she have visited while in Memphis, and most importantly she was looking for a photograph from the Memphis event. The Memphis Commercial Appeal had written a short article about Coleman’s visit, but they only used a stock photograph of her and not one from the actual event.

Through looking in the 1922 Polk Memphis City Directory I was able to pull a list of hotels. This directory did not identify which hotels were for African Americans, but I recognized a few of the hotel names.

Marquette Hotel

Plaza Hotel

I also used the directory to find newspapers of this time that might have covered the story.

The Commercial Appeal

The Daily News

The Memphis Press

The News Scimitar

The Southern Sentinel

Labor Review

Progressive Farmer

The last two newspapers probably wouldn’t have carried a story on Coleman’s visit, but they were newspapers available to Memphians at the time.

It makes me wonder if any of the people from our favorite West Tennessee Towns would have made the journey to Memphis, TN to attend the Tri-State Fair and see Bessie Coleman.

So the mystery remains, where did Bessie Coleman sleep while in Memphis? Where did she keep her plane? How long was she in Memphis for the performance? What restaurants, churches, night clubs, or stores would she have visited? Will we ever be able to put together an itinerary of her visit?

I look forward to finding out more about her visit and sharing it with you all.

 

 

– Tiffany

– Source: Google Images

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.

 

MitchellHotell2

Mitchell Hotel 160 Hernando St

MarquetteHotel2

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)