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Black Giving’s Local Legacy

We honor and celebrate Black History Month, recognized every year in February. Black history includes a historical legacy of giving, and Black philanthropy has been prevalent in Memphis practically since our founding.

Robert Church was a Black businessman and benefactor and, in the aftermath of the Civil War, the South’s first African American millionaire. [As a philanthropist,] Church used his wealth to create community assets for Black Memphians, developing a park, playground, and auditorium, [and more] for people who were otherwise denied access to such amenities. You can still visit Robert Church Park at Beale and Fourth Streets.

Our city’s rich heritage of Black philanthropy spans centuries in faith-based tithing, giving as relief for individuals or educational improvement, or donating to uplift the Black community. When Robert Church built an auditorium, I wonder if he could have even imagined Collage Dance Collective’sstunning Broad Avenue facility? Most donors to its $11 million building campaign were people of color—continuing a long legacy of generosity and community engagement.