Statewide Effort to Preserve African-American Women’s Political History Prior to 1930 begins in Memphis

“Protecting the Legacy” is a state-wide effort to digitizing oral histories, photographs, documents, and other memorabilia on African American women’s political activity, voting history and suffrage in Tennessee. The project is organized by Chick History, a women’s history nonprofit, in partnership with Humanities Tennessee and a diverse set of committees and partners across Tennessee – as part of a statewide project to commemorate the upcoming centennial of the Passage of the 19th Amendment in 2020.

“Black women have been politically active in many ways, and African-American women actively worked in the women’s suffrage movement. That trail begins with the more 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,” says Dr. Earnestine Jenkins, University of Memphis and a member of the project’s State-Wide Task Force.

Can you help?

We are looking for stories, photographs, letters, and family history about African-American women working for suffrage and political issues; as well as stories and experiences of early African-American women voters. We are looking for family history from 1930 and earlier. However, if you have stories and experiences from later decades, please still get in contact with us.

A small Focus Group will be held in Memphis on July 21 and 22 to help organize the project and tell us what history is in the community. We are asking for the community to bring in original photographs and documents. We will also be taking oral histories. Items will be scanned or photographed, and then returned to the owner that day. We will also give everyone their own copy of the digital image to take home.

The Focus Group is being 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

The project will continue over the next two years with additional public Digitization Days across the state. Exact locations and dates will be announced at a later day. Protecting the Legacy is Phase II of March to the 19th – a five-year grassroots campaign for women’s history in Tennessee in partnership with Humanities Tennessee.

For more detailed information and enquires about participating, please visit or use the following form to contact:

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