Coalition of Tennessee History Partners Unite to Expand Narrative of African American Woman Suffrage

For Immediate Release 
Contact: Rebecca Price

Statewide effort to preserve African American women’s political history prior to 1930 begins at National Civil Right Museum in Memphis on Nov. 17-18

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A statewide coalition with representatives from the National Civil Rights Museum, Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Nashville Public Library, the University of Memphis, the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University and the Memphis Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History is focusing its collective might to document early African American women’s political history and expand the history of suffrage in Tennessee.

Starting Nov. 17-18 at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Protecting the Legacy will digitize original photographs, documents and memorabilia at events held across Tennessee over the next two years. The goal is to make the materials available for public research and educational purposes once the project is complete.

“Black women actively worked in the woman’s suffrage movement, but the traditional narrative often leaves out large groups of women who didn’t fit into the white, middle-class image of women’s rights,” said Dr. Earnestine Jenkins, Professor at the University of Memphis and the Humanities Scholar for Protecting the Legacy. “That trail begins with the well-known stories of Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells, but there’s so much more history here in Tennessee, and so much we don’t know on the local level.”

“Protecting the Legacy is an exciting project that will examine a part of women’s history that hasn’t been fully unpacked,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, Director of Interpretation, Collections and Education at the National Civil Rights Museum. “We are putting our finger on something that will provide us a broader and deeper understanding of women. The hope is that through this process people will realize the importance and historical significance of women in their own families and communities.”

Early research unveiled stories of women such as Mrs. T.S. Brown, who founded a Black Woman’s Suffrage Club and corresponded with Mayor E.H. Crump in 1927 about ensuring African American women paid their poll taxes and were registered to vote.

Click here for photos related to this press release.

Now, the project seeks, with help from the public, to uncover other local suffrage stories. Project leaders are asking those interested in participating to look through family history for information about African American women that dates to 1930 and earlier. Places to start include:

  • Letters, journals and photographs of African American women, particularly leaders in the church, school or community;
  • Newsletters and meeting notices published by Historic Black Churches and Women’s Clubs;
  • Family stories passed down about women’s voting experiences in the 1920s.

“All history begins with local history,” said Rebecca Price, president and chief executive officer of Chick History, which is organizing the project. “A critical issue facing women’s history is that a majority of objects and materials are still in private and family collections. Without a catalogue of this history, a complete narrative is missing from the historical record.”

The November event is organized by staff, students and volunteers from Chick History, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and the University of Memphis; with support from Rhodes College’s Memphis Center and Crossroads to Freedom Program.

The task force behind Protecting the Legacy includes: Andrea Blackman, Nashville Pubic Library; Genny Carter, Tennessee State Library and Archives; Dr. Earnestine Jenkins, the University of Memphis; Renee Kesler, Beck Cultural Exchange Center; Dr. Susan Knowles, Center for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University; Rebecca Price, Chick History; Dr. Noelle Trent, National Civil Rights Museum; and Dr. Learotha Williams, Tennessee State University.

For more information, visit: or call 615-913-2513.

Protecting the Legacy is the second phase of March to the 19th, a five-year project organized by the Nashville-based women’s history nonprofit, Chick History, in partnership with Humanities Tennessee. March to the 19th is a multi-stage initiative dedicated to commemorating the upcoming centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 2020.

About Chick History: Founded in 2015, Chick History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding history one story at a time by focusing on women’s history, educational programming, and community outreach. Chick History is committed to preserving and interpreting all women’s histories and experiences through its unique programs and community-driven projects. For more information, visit

About the National Civil Rights Museum: The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 80,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement, examine today’s global civil and human rights issues, provoke thoughtful debate and serve as a catalyst for positive social change.

A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum was recognized as TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today’s Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC’s Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.

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September 16 – Community Meeting in Memphis: Preserving African American Women’s Suffrage History

Thank you to everyone who came and participated in the July Focus Group at the National Civil Rights Museum to learn more about Protecting the Legacy.

Protecting the Legacy is a project that seeks help from the public to uncover local suffrage stories. We are asking those interested in participating to look through family history for information about African American women that dates to 1930 and earlier.

We are hosting another meeting on September 16 for the public to learn more.

There will be a presentation focused specifically on suffrage, churches, and history we have uncovered to date. The presentation includes how to begin looking through your family and community memorabilia for this type of history (photographs, letters, scrapbooks, etc.)

Saturday, September 16
1:00 – 3:00 pm
Links Center at the National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry Road
Memphis, TN 38103

The event is free.

Contact Rebecca Price at Chick History at 615-913-2513 with questions.

The Event is organized by the following committee members:

  • Dr. Femi Ajanaku, LeMoyne-Owen College
  • Brigitte Billeaudeaux, University of Memphis
  • Dr. Earnestine Jenkins, University of Memphis
  • Rebecca Price, Chick History
  • Dr. Noelle Trent, National Civil Rights Museum

Thank you to the following Community Advisors for providing support and outreach:

  • Dr. Imani Fryar, Memphis Branch, Association for the Study of African American Life and History
  • Rita Harris, Memphis League of Women Voters
  • Mary Mitchell, Melrose Center for Cultural Enrichment
  • Brook Mundy, Morton Museum of Collierville History

Protecting the Legacy
 is organized by Chick History and a coalition of partners across Tennessee. We are digitizing family and local history related to African American women’s political history in Tennessee before 1930. This is an effort to expand the narrative of suffrage, voting, and political activity; and to preserve the contributions and experiences of African American women during this time period.