Douglass, Memphis, Tennessee
Douglass is a community on the north side of Memphis, Tennessee. Douglass was named after Frederick Douglass, who was admired by Reverend William Rush-Plummer, the one-time owner of the land (approximately 40 acres (0.16 km2)) where the Douglass neighborhood currently stands.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Education
- 4 Community
- 5 Economy
- 6 References
Reverend William Rush-Plummer was born into a life of slavery in the Southern States in America. He was the only son of a white slave master, William Rush Sr. and his mother, a slave from Africa. Mrs. Rush demanded of her husband, that young William Rush Jr. not be given the Rush family name. As a result, William Rush Senior, modified his son’s name giving him a hyphenated last name. William Jr. was renamed, William Rush-Plummer.
Slavery in the South was eventually abolished. When that time arrived, slaves were promised 40 acres (160,000 m2) and a mule. Although many newly freed slaves did not receive the promise at that time, William Rush Sr. gave William Rush-Plummer 40 acres (160,000 m2) in North Memphis, Tennessee. He turned his land into a community and name it after Fredrick Douglass, a man he had come to befriend and admire.
William Rush-Plummer was ordained in his young adult years and began to develop the land now known as the Douglass Community in Memphis, Tennessee after his family was released from slavery (see 40 acres (160,000 m2) and a mule). Now referred to as Reverend Plummer, he had a strong resemblance to his father and a similar proper speech pattern (with a heavy southern dialect). He began opening many churches on his land including St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church (Need More Missionary Baptist Church), St. Stephens MB Church, St. Charles MB Church and at least three other local churches that were later sold to local Pastors and their congregations.
From the very beginning, Christianity played a vital role in the Plummer family and the lives of families in the Douglass Community due to Reverend William Rush-Plummer's vision. In 1900, Reverend William Rush Plummer and his associates had a vision that a church was needed for the community. Under a bush arbor in Douglass Park, the first church known as "Need More" was established. Reverend Plummer, known as “Father Plummer” deliberately gave the church this name because he felt it needed more of everything: shelter, chairs, and people.
Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church
In 1902, ‘Need More Church’ moved to a new location for worship on Ellington Street and was given a new name, "Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church". Reverend Plummer served as the church’s first official pastor. He was succeeded by Reverend Bolton, followed by Reverend Anderson. The church moved in 1905 to its present location at 1543 Brookins Street. Memphis, Tennessee.
Rev. J.E. Ferguson became the fourth pastor of the church on the third Sunday in June 1931. Realizing that education had to be perpetuated in the community, Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church allowed Douglass High School to hold classes in the early 1900s when the school was blown away by the "Great Storm". In 1935, the School burned to the ground and once again, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church opened its doors. Rev. Ferguson permitted the school to hold classes under the leadership of Mrs. Susie Crawford, principal and later Mr. Lucky Sharpe until the new school was built the following year. To further serve the community, St. Paul was, also, used as a social center for feeding the poor. Rev. Ferguson served as pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church for 60 years until his death on April 16, 1991.
Reverend Harry Davis was elected as Pastor, on the first Sunday in July in 1991 and is currently the Pastor. Under his leadership, St Paul Missionary Baptist Church, was re-documented under the name of St. Paul (Douglass) M. B. Church under the direction of Reverend Harry Davis and is a landmark in the “Historic Douglass Community.” St. Paul has been remodeled four times (1940, 1951 and 1985, 2002) since the new foundation on Brookins was laid. A kitchen was added in 1985 and Life center added in 2002. A number of properties and annex buildings have been purchased for current and future use. The annex building on Pope Street is used for Sunday school and the children’s ministry classes, while the property on Mt. Olive is being used as a clothing and food shelter for the outreach ministry. A church van was purchased in 1994 to transport elderly members and various church organizations. The newest addition is the Johne Early Multi Purpose Life Center that includes classrooms and a full banquet and gym facilities.
Over the years, through several generations, the name ‘Rush’ began to fade. New generations unaware of the family’s history simply stopped using the mid 1900s. Today the Plummer family seldom uses the name Rush, unless historical matters are being discussed. The Plummer family’s official last name, although it may not show up on their birth certificates is Rush-Plummer.
Church of the Living God, Missionary Baptist Church
Pastor Maggie-Judith A. Fluker-Campbell, (Pastor Maggie Campbell) the great-great granddaughter of Reverend William Rush-Plummer, has been a member of St. Paul ‘Douglass’ Missionary Baptist Church since birth. She was baptized at the church at approximate 12 years of age, trained by her grandmother and members of her family in Evangelism since her teen years at the church, and she accepted the calling on her life at the age of 13 years of age while attending St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church under the late Reverend J. E. Ferguson.
She left Memphis in 1985 and established residents in California as an active duty member of the United States Navy where she had the opportunity to travel around the world. She established her first ministry in support of women and children in 1993 where she was known as Evangelist Maggie Fluker-Campbell in Northern California. Shortly after her graduation from San Francisco State University where she received a Bachelors of Arts degree and her graduation from the University of California, Berkeley where received her official Paralegal Certification, Evangelist Maggie as she was referred to at that time became the first person in her family’s history on both her father and mother’s side to graduate from a university.
Shortly after her daughter, Rieka Leene’ (White) Rain Tree, graduated high school, their family relocated to Southern California to remain near her daughter while she enrolled in college at California State University Los Angeles at the young age of 17. Mrs. Rain Tree became the second member in the family’s history to graduate from a University when she received her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from California State University, Northridge. Pastor Maggie, as she prefers to be called, lives in the City of Palmdale in Southern California, She re-established her membership with St. Paul Douglass M. B. Church and officially established an official covenant partnership between St. Paul Douglass M.B. church and her California-based Maggie Campbell Ministries on December 18, 2005.
Evangelist Maggie Campbell became the first woman in her family’s history to become an ordained Pastor. She was ordained on Friday, October 13, 2006 in Southern California. Shortly after her ordination Pastor Maggie Campbell and her husband, Alvin Campbell established a new church in Palmdale, California and dedicated it to her great grandfather, the late Reverend William Rush Plummer called, ‘Church of the Living God’, www.church-living-god.org on February 4, 2009. They have continued their affiliation and ministry partnership with St. Paul Douglass Missionary Baptist Church. Alvin and Pastor Maggie Campbell opened the ‘Church of the Living God’ (Missionary Baptist) in memory of Pastor Maggie’s great-great grandfather Reverend Rush-Plummer where Women in Ministry Leadership receive specialized training and Official Ordination with a goal to plant more churches to continue to edify the Word of God.
Missionary Baptist Association established
In September 2010, Pastor Maggie Campbell established the “Missionary Baptist Association” (MBA), In support of Women in Ministry Leadership. One of the purposes the MBA, is to bring together churches with like faith and aspirations to fellowship with one another within the MBA in California and nationwide, to encourage non-denominational churches to join with the Missionary Baptist church family, to organize retreats and reunions as well.
Pastor Maggie Campbell turns 50 years old on October 7, 2010. A celebration is planned by the Church of the Living God members and some her closest family members and friends in California. Celebrating family and over 30 years in ministry, Pastor Maggie and her husband Alvin Campbell are now the grandparents of Xavier and Lola Rain Tree, the children of their daughter, Rieka and her husband Roman Rain Tree.
Douglass is home to Douglass Elementary School on Ash St., Douglass Community Center and Douglass High School. There are several churches in the community including St. Paul Douglass M.B. Church, St. John Church - located at the corner of Brookins Street and Chelsea Avenue (also founded by the late Reverend William Rush-Plummer), Calvary Baptist Church and more.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt Visited Douglass School
During the Great Depression all Shelby county schools were encouraged to participate in gardening and students and families received free seeds. The Memphis World reported: “The Douglass school, a Negro industrial center, has in and around its territory a total of 682 gardens.” For a community of about 800 families, that was a phenomenal ratio. “The school children (Rush-Plummer, Henderson, Cross, Ware children, etc) used nearby vacant land to plant gardens and real estate developers cooperated by allowing families to plant gardens in empty lots. The foodstuffs grown were canned and used to provide hot lunches for school children through the coming year. Also, residents could use the canning equipment to preserve their own vegetables for their families. In return, the user gave the school one out of every six cans.” It was during this time that Douglass School and its community achieved national prominence. On November 20, 1937, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt came to make a first-hand visit to observe the Live-at-Home total program. She was so impressed with what the Douglass community exhibited that she took the project back to the nation’s capital and wrote several articles in leading newspapers and magazines pertaining to the Live-at-Home project. First Lady Roosevelt put it in plain words, “There is nothing southern about Memphis! We stopped at a Negro school [Douglass Elementary] built by WPA labor where the [National Youth Administration] NYA youngsters carried out a garden and canning project for the benefit of their school lunches which would have done credit to any county 4-H Club.” Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day” 22 November 1937
Douglass High School
The original Douglass High School served the neighborhood 1938. It burned to the ground and resumed meeting at the church [Need More] founded by Rev. William Rush-Plummer. The next school was built in place of the damaged one and used from 1946 to 1981.
It was closed due to low attendance after students from the community were bused to Gragg Junior High school and Craigmont High School. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, but was torn down in the summer of 2006 to make way for a new school building. A parade was held to commemorate the demolition of the building. Alumni of the school each took a brick from the rubble to cherish their years at Douglass. The building had been a haven for gang activity and late-night games to Douglass children.
The new Douglass School opened for the 2008–09 school year, with expected enrollment of at least 800 students. It is one of the oldest but newest Memphis City Schools, with a state-of-the-art 1,500-seat varsity gym, a 1,100-seat auditorium, a football stadium (with a track) in the middle of Douglass Park, and baseball stadium at the northeast corner of Douglass Park. The mascot is the Red Devil and colors are maroon, red and white. The school is expected to house the regular varsity sports and are expected to do well due to the amazing athletes from the community. The sports teams will consist of players from Craigmont who are from the community,;the varsity basketball team will have two players from Bolton High School as well.
Douglass Park, located behind Douglass High School, is where many children have come together since the 1960s for day camp during the summer months. Children where taught how to play indoor and outdoor sports, arts and craft, children's theater and they participated in competitive sports against other parks and community centers around the City of Memphis. The Juneteenth celebration and the Douglass Expos is held in Douglass Park, nestled alongside the Quaker Oats Company.
The Douglass Community Center has a gymnasium, banquet room, arts and craft rooms, a kitchen, game room (pool table, table tennis, and table hockey), multi- purpose room, a Co- Act Police office and restrooms. They sponsor many events throughout the year including: Senior Citizens Days, Cheerleadering, Majorettes, Dance, Physical Fitness, Baseball Skills Days, Drawing, Coloring, Tumbling and little league games in football, basketball and baseball under the direction of Terry E. Fluker, Sr., Director of Douglass Community Center.
Another notable contributor to the Douglass Park and Community Center is Memphis Park Commission employee, Maurice Goode, Sr., a former Douglass resident along with mother & numerous brothers & sisters and graduate of Douglass High.
The Douglass Community have a Neighborhood Association funded through the City of Memphis. Douglass Neighborhood Association's primary goal is the refurbish and rebuild the community of Douglass in effort to attract more families to the neighborhood. The association is doing very well and is self-sustaining.
The Douglass Community is one of the oldest communities in the City of Memphis. A lifelong resident of the Douglass Community, the late Agnes Johnson-Lamar was 107 at the time of her death. She lived on Pope Street in the middle of the Douglass Community for approximately 100 years. In her youth, along with two of her sisters, the late Carrie Fluker and Elizabeth (Sees) Christmas; Agnes Lamar lived on Pope Street when the name of the street was, Caradine Street. Agnes Lamar was older than the street itself. Efforts were made unsuccessfully to rename Pope Street, "Agnes Lamar Street" years before she died, by her great niece, Pastor Maggie-Judith Fluker-Campbell, (Daughter of the late Evelyn Fluker-Williams (who worked for the Memphis Park Commission for many years prior to her death in 1993), youngest sister of Douglass Community Center Director, Terry E. Fluker, Sr. and the Brown, Johnson and Fluker Family Historian). Agnes Lamar holds the record to this day as the oldest person to have lived in the Douglass Community.
Douglass has several different factories in the area as well; some are still active while others are not, and all are tied into a rail line connecting several factories' docking areas including John Murrell Meats. Douglass borders Hyde Park and Hollywood and is surrounded by railroad tracks to the north, south and east. For many years, residents could not leave the community most days of the week without being blocked in by stalled railroad cars or slow mile long cars day after day. Many residents have had bad experiences crossing the tracks by foot and by auto. Many accidents over the years have been documented. Though promises were made to build an overpass as far back as the early 1970s, this project never materialized.
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