New life coming to African-American hospital founded in 1910

After sitting dormant since the 1990s, one of the oldest African-American hospitals in the nation has begun a $5 million renovation and expansion project.

Established in Memphis in 1910 by the CME Church, it was the only hospital locally where African-Americans could receive medical treatment until segregation ended, according to Bishop Henry Williamson of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. 

"Diabetes, heart disease, strokes, prostate cancer, breast cancer – black people suffer disproportionately than our white brothers and sisters, and so we’re dying too young or living not at full capacity because we are much too sick and can’t achieve our full human potential,” said Williamson, who presides over 250 churches in Tennessee and Arkansas.

The Collins Chapel Connectional Hospital is located at 409 Ayers Street in the Memphis Medical District.

Once it reopens, the 28-bed facility will also be used as a training facility for African-American men and women in the medical field.

“During discrimination, Jim Crow and segregation, we were not allowed to enter white hospitals for care or as doctors or nurses, so our denomination, which got started in 1870 in Jackson, Tenn., took on this major solution for the needs of a free people,” said Williamson.

In early August, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. returned to Memphis to bring awareness to Collins Chapel Connectional Hospital’s renovation and expansion, and more than $12,000 was raised during his weekend visit. CME Church is actively seeking more donations to help fund the remainder of the work needed.

Toles Construction Co. is leading the construction, which has been underway for the past six months. Architects Carmichael Johnson and Juan Self handled much of the design work.

Williamson hopes the project will be completed by early next year.

He is also lobbying for the school that recently closed across the street from the hospital to be converted into an all-male academy or a senior housing facility

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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