Tag Archives: west tennessee women

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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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 – The Indianapolis News September 19, 1873

20 Feb

The following article was featured in the Indianapolis News September 19, 1873 edition.

Indianapolis News Sept 19 1873

Indianapolis News Sept 19 1873

I wish that there was more available information about how she ended up in that predicament. I hope she was able to recover.

 

– Tiffany

– Source: The Indianapolis News September 19, 1873 edition

What About the Ladies?

23 Sep

“A survey of women workers for Tennessee in 1935 found that black female workers, most of them concentrated in West Tennessee, made a median wage of $5.65 a week in all occupations, less than half the median wage of white women” – Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights by Micheal K. Honey

So what were women doing to earn their $5.65 a week in Ripley? ($5.65 a week x 52 weeks in a year = 293.80 a year)

A quick look at the 1940 US Census reveals the occupations of those employed.

 

Ella Adams – Age 44, Laundress, 40 hours per week, Income in 1939 $250.00

Frances Claybrook – Age 19, Cook in a private home, 50 hours per week, income in 1939 $108.00

Nellie Alexander – Age 48, Cook/Maid in a private home, 54 hours per week, income in 1939 $198.00

Willie B. Alexander – Age 36 (been working 26 years), cook in a private home, income in 1939 $130.00 (worked 26 weeks)

Pearle Bands – Age 32, maid, 21 hours per week, income in 1939 $208.00

Jessie Henderson – Age 42, cook, 40 hours per week, income in 1939 $156.00

Laura Sullivan – Age 35, cook at a cafe, 60 hours per week, income in 1939 $250.00

Alcie Taylor – Age 50, laundress, 20 hours per week, income in 1939 $78.00

Ella B. Tyus – Age 32, laundress, 48 hours per week, income in 1939 $364.00

Magalena Vaughn – Age 50, cook, 42 hours per week, income in 1939 $260.00

As you can see from this small collection of ladies their yearly income varied. One even made it beyond the $5.65 per week mark. What stands out to me is that their occupations were basically the same. Cook, laundress, or maid were the occupations African American women could look for during this time. Could you imagine graduating from Lauderdale County High School, but having to become a maid or work in another position of servitude? Do any of you have oral histories from your family detailing how your grandmother or great grandmother made a living?

 

-Tiffany

– Source: 1940 US Census Records for Lauderdale County, Tennessee, Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights by Micheal K. Honey