"The negroes on 'Mr. Joe's' place are happy and carefree. There is a negro Baptist church on the island and one old negro said when services are held' members come out of the bushes like bees out of a honeysuckle vine'."
This is one of few articles that tell the story of black inhabitance of the island. Unfortunately, it is spiced with stereotypical description. Still, I was pleased to find the photograph of the church. I'm sure there's an interesting story behind its founding. The article also mentions the existence of a cemetery near the end of the island. My ancestors lived on the island for twenty years--roughly between 1863 and 1885--and another blogger, A. Walton, has written that he also had an ancestor who lived on the island. Key to resurrecting the history of black residence on the island is (1) finding others whose ancestors made it home, (2) absorbing the idea that the history of the island points determination, self-reliance, resiliency, and ingenuity on the part of our ancestors, and (3) seeing the relevance of this and other aspects of our history. Contrary to the stereotypical description of "happy and carefree" Negroes, African Americans who settled on the island moved quickly toward building institutions such as this one and building a financial base through farming.
Today of course this awesome and inspiring history has been covered over in the name of progress and forgetting. The island is dominated by industry. President's Island is essentially an industrial park. While Memphis' leaders have yet to discover and publicize the role that contraband camps played in the creation of black communities in Memphis, it is high time that someone begin this campaign of recognition.Can I count you in?
Sunday, January 4, 2009
New Hope (Negro) Baptist Church
This photo of the New Hope Baptist Church appeared in the Press-Scimitar, November 2, 1937. (From the files of the Memphis Public Library, Central Branch)
An excerpt from the article reads:
Be sure to check out: http://blackfarmers.blogspot.com/