Tag Archives: Tennessee

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.

 

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

The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

1 Feb

I’ve written twice on the website about connections between Lauderdale County and the United States Colored Troops (USCT) here and here. While visiting Washington DC for a conference, I finally had the opportunity to visit the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. Not only is there an excellent exhibit at the museum, but right across the street from the museum is the USCT Memorial complete with a statue and plaques that bear the names of every member of the USCT, who served in the Civil War.

Of particular interest to me was finding the name of Major Gilliland/Gilden/Bates who happens to be my children’s 4th great uncle. Major was enslaved by David Gilliland in Lauderdale County, Tennessee as referenced in his USCT records. He enlisted in the 4th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery. Despite the cold and rain, I found his name.

Major Gilden

Major Gilden

After locating Major’s name I then began to search for Wallace Nixon’s name. Wallace Nixon enlisted in the 3rd Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery. I was able to locate him as well.

Wallace Nixon UCST

Wallace Nixon UCST

I am sure that there are other USCT troops from Lauderdale County and neighboring counties also featured there, but unfortunately, I could only remember these two names during my stop at the museum and memorial. If you are ever in Washington DC, admission to the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum is free, although they do request a donation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

  • Tiffany
  • Image Sources: My Own

Camp Shiloh – Memphis, TN

7 Mar

Camp Shiloh, also known as The Colored People’s Camp, in Memphis, TN was a contraband camp for runaway slaves during the Civil War. Camp Shiloh was located in South Memphis. It is thought that due to the camp being majority female that their spouses had enlisted in the United States Colored Troops and that some were stationed at nearby Ft. Pickering. Camp Shiloh had over 300 houses as well as schools and churches. In 1863 a list was taken of the former slaves living there. The list was known was the Register of Freedmen. On the list were the names of the slaves and their ages, their occupation, the names of their former owners, their health status, and where they were from. I scanned the list for the names of slaves from our area and some of that information is below. I have copied the names exactly as they were listed, so some names may be spelled incorrectly.

You can search for other names on this list by clicking the following link.

http://www.lastroadtofreedom.com/documents/12.pdf

 

Ellen Buchanan 33

  • Owned by Mary Maclin of Haywood County, TN

Winnie Clay 45, Washington Clay 20, Vina Clay 18

  • Owned by Joseph Clay of Haywood County, TN

Jane Carter 40, Emily Carter 18, Sandy Carter 10, Buck Carter 6

  • Owned by Samuel Oldham of Haywood County, TN

Mary Curry 38

  • Owned by James Curry of Haywood County, TN

Albert Cox 42

  • Owned by Samuel Cox of Haywood County, TN

Carolina Burton 30, Alice Burton, Mark Burton 8

  • Owned by John Burton of Haywood County, TN

Margaret Green 26

  • Owned by John Drake of Haywood County, TN

Lutisia Miller 18

  • Owned by William Miller of Haywood County, TN

Ann McLamore 18

  • Owned by Sugar McLamore of Haywood County, TN

Angeline Noel 20

  • Owned by Joseph Clay of Haywood County, TN

Caroline Olden 55, Amelia Olden 10, Isabel Olden 18, Nellie Olden 63

  • Owned by Samuel Olden of Haywood County, TN

Ann Reed 24

  • Owned by John Burton of Haywood County, TN

I became interested in the lives of these former slaves after the end of the Civil War. Did they stay in Memphis or did they return back to Haywood County? I found a few leads, such as an Albert Cox living in Haywood County in 1870 on the US Census, but of course there is no definite way to determine that this was the same Albert Cox who had been at the Shiloh Camp.

 

– Tiffany

Sources: Register of Freedmen – http://www.lastroadtofreedom.com/documents/12.pdf

Information on TN Contraband Camps – http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=305 and http://lastroadtofreedom.org/uploads/3/1/1/7/3117447/tennessee.pdf

 

Best of Black Ripley Awards 2014

29 Jan

In keeping with last year I am back with 2014’s Best of Black Ripley Awards. This is just a way to document the Best of Black Ripley for the past year. This year I am going to highlight the most read posts on the website.

1. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About African American Life in Ripley – #1 Ripley was known for the largest African American Labor Day Celebration in the United States

Just like last year this was the most read post on the blog. Labor Day certainly does hold a special place in the heart of people from Ripley. This post was also the most shared post from this site on Facebook.

You can review the original posting here:
10 Things you Didn’t Know About Black life in Ripley, TN –  1. Ripley was known for the largest African American Labor Day Celebration in the United States

 

2. Lost Ripley – Eylau Plantation

This one was a complete surprise! I was not expecting this one to appear on the list for the most read posts at all. Eylau Plantation was the home of Dr. Samuel Oldham and family. According to the book, Lauderdale County from its Earliest Times by Kate Johnston Peters, Eylau was a show place for the Oldham family. Peters also notes that Oldham treated his slaves kindly (as kindly as you could treat someone you treat as property I suppose).

You can review the original posting here:

Lost Ripley – Eylau Plantation

 

3. Runaway Slave – Memphis Daily Appeal February 21, 1857

The third most read post was the Runaway Slave post in the Memphis Daily Appeal. I always save runaway slave postings whenever I come across them. I cannot help but to think of the desperation and fear that those individuals must have felt as they made their way towards freedom.

You can review the original posting here:

Runaway Slave – Memphis Daily Appeal February 21, 1857

 

4. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley, TN – 2. The Madison County Area was once involved in a plot to capture a slave thief named John Murrell.

Although this post does not directly involve Ripley, it did take place in the area and is an interesting story involving the Henning family, namesakes of Henning, TN. The story involves plots of slave stealing and inciting slave revolts and helped to create one of the biggest legends in West Tennessee history in John Murrell.

You can review the original posting here:

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley, TN – 2. The Madison County Area was once involved in a plot to capture a slave thief named John Murrell. 

 

5. Lost Ripley – Clay Funeral Home on College Street

And lastly, the 5th most read posting on the site for 2014 belongs to the former Clay Funeral Home on College Street. The Clay Funeral Home was founded by Alex Clay and served the black community in Ripley faithfully. After the original posting, Mr. William Carson provided the site with actual pictures of the funeral home. That type of collaboration is exactly what is needed to preserve the stories that make up this site.

You can review the original posting here:

Lost Ripley – Clay Funeral Home on College Street

You can view the posting with pictures of Clay Funeral Home here:

Lost Ripley – Clay Funeral Home – Follow Up

 

There you have it! Those were the most read posts for 2014. What would you like to see featured on the website in 2015?

 

– Tiffany

An Update

29 Jan

Hello everyone,

As you all know I took some time off from the website during the fall to adjust to the rigors of graduate school. I’m pleased to say that I made it through the first semester and I am at the start of my second semester. So far, so good. Thanks for your patience with the lack of posts.

During my hiatus, I did find the time to do some research and attend history related functions. Below are a few photos of what I’ve been up to.

This fall I attended the reburial commemoration ceremony for 20 slaves found at the Nashville Zoo. The slaves had been reburied this past June, but a big ceremony was not held until October. The slaves were discovered on the property in the 1980s and left undisturbed until construction required their removal. The slaves were moved from their original burial site and reburied on the historic farm site located on the zoo. Prior to being reburied DNA samples were taken to identify the ancestry of the individuals and as suspected African ancestry was found. They were reburied according to the original way they were buried in an effort not to disturb what may have been family groupings. They were also reburied using the original stone markers for their graves.

Slave Burial Site Marker

Slave Burial Site Marker

 

Slave burial site. Note the headstones

Slave burial site. Note the headstones.

I also attended a lecture on the bioarchaeology behind these remains and learned of new techniques to determine DNA and the possible geographic locations that these individuals might have lived in prior to living at what would become the Nashville Zoo.

Skull of Slave Woman

Skull of Slave Woman

I also worked on a project to bring commemoration to a neighborhood known as The Bottoms in Murfreesboro that was removed from the landscape due to urban renewal. Researching neighborhoods that have been removed from the landscape has quickly become my favorite area of research.

I was quite busy, but I missed working on Black Ripley. It feels good to be back!

 

– Tiffany