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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

African American life in Memphis, Tennessee: a compilation of collections

Repository: Memphis Public Library & Information Center

Collection Description (CRHP): This collection includes a number of materials dealing with civil rights. It has a section on politics that covers the long history of the civil rights movement, from the activism of Ida B. Wells against lynching in the late nineteenth century to information on Willie Herenton, the first African American ever elected mayor of Memphis, an event that took place in 1991. Box 1, Folder 25 contains a transcript of an oral history of A. W. Willis, Jr., which was done on July 23, 1979, by Ray Ann Kremer and Peggy Jemison of the Vollintine-Evergeen Neighborhood Public Policy Project sponsored by the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association. Willis was a civil rights leader in Memphis active in politics, the NAACP, and civil rights legislation. In addition, he headed the Supreme Mortgage and Realty Company, and this interview focuses on his work with housing. To a lesser extent, it deals with his political activity in Memphis.

Collection Description (Extant): The African American Life in Memphis, Tennessee collection touches on the vast contributions of African Americans in the Bluff City. The papers address the early struggles of African Americans and reflect the rich and productive lives they have led in Memphis. The extensive collection is divided into portions on the arts, business, medicine, politics and religion, and covers events from the beginning to the end of the 20th century. The papers serve as a valuable resource for researchers who wish to understand the significant contributions African Americans have made to the city. African Americans have had an immeasurable impact on the arts in Memphis, and the collection contains a section of material on musicians, actors, visual artists and dancers who have lived in Memphis and traveled through the city. This section also provides significant historical information on Memphis' role in the development of jazz and the creation of the blues as a distinct musical form. The section related to business includes articles on individuals such as J.E. Walker, founder of Universal Life Insurance Company, which provide insight into the entrepreneurial spirit of African Americans in Memphis. The portion of the collection devoted to medicine includes information dating back to the Memphis Cooperative Drug Company which was founded at the beginning of the century, as well as articles that relate to the creation of Champion Pharmacy in the 1980s. The papers include programs from various events sponsored by the local chapter of the NAACP. Also included are several minute books from the historic Beale Street Baptist Church that date back to 1901. The portion of the collection focusing on religion also contains numerous church histories, as well as an assortment of church anniversary booklets that also provide some information on individual families.

Collection URL: External Link

Date(s): circa 1979-1990s

Digital Status: No

Extent: 4 linear feet

Language: English

Related Archival Items: The A. W. Willis Collection is also at the Memphis Public Library & Information Center. The A. W. Willis interview in the African American collection is part of the larger MIFA neighborhood history association that is part of the Everett Cook Collection in the Memphis Public Library.

Interviewees: A. W. Willis, Jr.

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American artists
African American businesspeople
African American churches--Tennessee
African American families
African American musicians
African American political activists--Tennessee
African American politicians--Tennessee
African Americans--Civil rights--Tennessee
African Americans--Education (Higher)
African Americans--Politics and government
Civil rights--Economic aspects
Medical care




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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

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   September 26, 2018
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