$150K grant to revitalize historic Black Memphis church

Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 5:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A new investment for one Mid-South church was announced today to assure one of the oldest churches here in the Mid-South will continue to stand as a landmark for years to come.

“We are investing 50,000 dollars in a façade, we are investing $50,000 in the restoration, we are developing $50,000 in the roof, for a total investment of $150,000,” said Mayor Lee Harris.

A $150,000 grant signed by Shelby county government. A new investment for Beale street Baptist to restore and preserve the building. The first Memphis church built by Black people for Black people.

“African American usually get their mail from here,” Beale St Baptist’s pastor David E Helton. “When they were standing on the street.”

A rich history, Beale Street Baptist dates back to 1869. Fast forward years later, city leaders say these funds will be used for restoration of the historic site to ensure its strength for years to come.

“Sadly, the story of the black church gets lost, it’s not as widely known as it should be,” Harris said. “That’s why it’s the top priority in Shelby County to make this investment this morning. This is the place where things changed permanently. This place is one of those places that started the black church. It represents the decision of people to learn to read for themselves and read the Bible on their own.”

Alongside Mayor Lee Harris, singing the church’s praise is Register Willie Brooks Jr., Jimmy Tucker of Tucker Architects, Leah Fox Greenberg with Memphis Heritage, chairman Mickell Lowery, pastor Lasimba Gray, and Beale St. Baptist’s own, pastor David E Helton.

It’s all in support of what’s to come for the church.

“This is just the beginning and not the end because it takes more than $150,000 to restore this place,” said Register Willie F Brooks Jr.

Architect Jimmy Tucker said, with the grant, the top priority will be to stabilize the building. Mayor Harris said the Shelby county government will continue to make investments to monumental spots like Beale Street Baptist to preserve history.

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