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Don’t be creeped out when I tell you this. I like historic sites. Okay, that’s not the creepy part. This is: Buildings + spaces call to me. No. I don’t hear things but sometimes a feeling takes over and tells me to stop and investigate and when I do...
They lead me to fascinating places. If you’re new here, you should know that I’m currently in Memphis, TN. I’m a part of a fellowship that’s going to assist me in opening my first school. Today, a friend of mine came to scoop me for lunch and on the way there I saw something...
It was an abandoned building and the plants had taken most of the lawn over, but something said: STOP. Here’s my friend @PoeticXposure explaining it...
She made a u-turn and drove back to the building. I get out of the car and start investigating. I read the faded sign...Griggs? Griggs Business?

I googled the name & couldn’t find anything on it. I tried to pinpoint the exact address on the map. Nope. Couldn’t find it.
I’m determined.
All day I’ve been working on this business/arts school that I’m in process of creating and I needed to get my mind off of it.

Griggs. Griggs Business. Put it in quotes. Add Memphis. Add Tennessee. I check a newspaper archive I’m subscribed to. Boom.
I find a random mention of a “Griggs Business College” in Memphis. Ah. Cool. I search that term again. It’s the only mention in the search. Sigh.

I decide to google the term one more time and then I found it...
In the book “The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee: A Narrative History,” the College was mentioned for students involved in a restaurant sit-in.

Immediately I think: They’re Black. They’re Black. They’re Black!

So I keep searching....
I notice there are a few other results in the search that are tied to notable Black Memphians.

And then it hits me: “Was this a Black-owned school?”
Now I’m clicking ALL the links. There’s gotta be something other than just a mention in a bio or a resume. I find an excerpt from this book 👇🏾 and it opens Pandora’s box...
I needed to hold this book. I needed more than this excerpt. My friend asked, “Wanna go to the library?” I nodded. We were out!

After a 10 minute drive, I was sitting in front of the text...and I was looking at the founder of Grigg’s Business College. Emma J. Williams-Griggs.
She started Griggs Business College in Memphis, TN, a practical arts and business institution.

My. God.

I had to know more! @Ancestry to the rescue. I searched their archives and found her death certificate...

If you zoom in on her occupation...it lists her school.
After confirming that I had the right address for her residence, via her death certificate and the city’s directory, in North Memphis...we went there too...
This was her home. My friend, a native Memphian, searched a real estate website to confirm, “This was built in 1940. It was new when she moved in. Also, they haven’t made chairs like that in decades. I’m sure whoever lives there kept her chairs.”
As we drove away, we realized that a nearby street was named after her or her husband. 👇🏾
Speaking of which..her husband was Sutton Griggs: African-American author, Baptist minister, and social activist. He is best known for his novel Imperium in Imperio, a utopian work that envisions a separate African-American state within the United States. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutton_E.…
He was the precursor to the “New Negro Movement.” You know I had to visit the church that was once his, right? His original building was sold to Charles H. Mason and burned in 1960 but was rebuilt.
Oh and if that wasn’t enough synchronicity....Emma J. Williams-Griggs was also a playwright/writer.

Hi. I’m a writer, too. 👋🏾
I’m 31 and well into my career and I’m so inspired. I can’t imagine what knowing this legacy would’ve done for me at an earlier age. 👈🏾 This is my reason. I will continue to collect these stories and retell them classrooms and wherever I can.
It shouldn’t have been this difficult to figure out what this building once was. This legacy shouldn’t be one page long. We cannot let our triumphs be erased. The next generations need them more than ever.

I hear you, Emma.
Loud and clear.
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