Read MTSU history professor Elizabeth Gritter’s latest guest column in The Tennessean about the Church family of Memphis and the important role they played in the state’s civil rights history.
Gritter teaches U.S. history, and her book-in-progress examines Robert R. Church Jr. and black political mobilization in Memphis. She also is working on a documentary film, “River of Hope,” on this topic.
Excerpts from the column follow:
“This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Robert R. Church Sr., reportedly America’s first black millionaire, and the national political start of his son Robert R. Church Jr., who became the country’s most prominent black Republican in the 1920s. These black Tennesseans, based in Memphis, made great strides for racial advancement. …
“Church Jr., born in 1885, politically mobilized black Memphians and became a figure of statewide and national power. Unlike most Southerners, black Memphians could vote, and Church Jr. saw political involvement as the key for racial advancement. A lifelong Republican, he pushed the party to embrace civil rights until his death in 1952.”
Read the full column here.