North Memphis

High Ground's On the Ground series heads to North Memphis

High Ground is heading to its 13th On the Ground neighborhood—North Memphis. 

Typically, we spend around three months in an On the Ground neighborhood. During that time, we produce an average of 20 to 25 stories, photo and video essays, live interviews, recorded podcasts, and daily social media content. 

Most of our On The Ground neighborhoods are disinvested and underserved. Most receive little media coverage, and what they do receive most often focuses on the areas' struggles, like crime and failing school. These neighborhoods lack narratives that acknowledge their histories, assets, the nuances of complex challenges, and the people and organizations generating and implementing solutions.

But there are many neighborhood that are simply too small to cover for three full months, especially if they're also heavily disinvested with few businesses, schools, public amenities, active neighborhood groups, events, and activities. 

On the Ground: North Memphis is our first attempt at highlighting those smaller communities.

We're spending six months, January through July, covering both North Memphis as a whole and spotlighting some of its individual communities with a dedicated month of coverage. 

In January, we're revisiting the North Memphis neighborhoods where we've already embedded: Uptown, Klondike, and Smokey City.

In February we'll head to New Chicago. In March we'll highlight Vollintine-Evergreen and University Lane, and for April we'll cover Hollywood and Springdale. May is focused on an area we're calling The Parks. It includes Hyde Park, College Park, Hein Park, and Palmershire Park. We'll move to Douglass in June and spend July wrapping our coverage with stories from across the neighborhoods. 

While we hone in on individual areas, we'll also tackle some of the challenges facing the whole of North Memphis, including access to grocery stories and adequate transportation, environmental hazards, and its history of race-based development practices like redlining and urban renewal. 
A young boy stops to enjoy a flower during a neighborhood cleanup event in North Memphis. (High Ground News)

Our coverage will focus on the area between the Mississippi River to the west and James Road to the north. The southern boundary is formed by North Parkway and Summer Avenue east to Tillman Street, and Jackson Avenue east from Tillman. Jackson then takes a sweeping turn to the north and becomes North Memphis' eastern boundary.

We'll explore histories and highlight businesses and community organizations. We'll interview neighborhood leaders and legends. We'll spend time at its centers of community, from libraries to well-loved restaurants. 

We'll also explore themes of identity, agency, and ownership.

North Memphis' neighborhood names alone tell a complex story of power, profit, and resistance. More than just names, they mark cycles of top-down development and redevelopment and residents' fight to maintain agency and attachment to the identities they find significant.

Uptown, for example, got its name in the early 2000s as a large-scale redevelopment effort began across what was previously several smaller communities. A name was necessary to define the area for funding purposes, but it also gave the area a cohesive brand and identity that officials and developers hoped would attract new residents and commercial investment.

Today, many Uptown residents do call their neighborhood Uptown, but many others stick to the earlier names like Greenlaw, Bickford, Breedlove, Lauderdale Courts, and Hurt Village.

We're looking forward to diving into these and other rich and complex stories from the many neighborhoods of North Memphis.

If you're a resident or business owner in North Memphis and would like to help shape our coverage, email [email protected] We invite all of our readers to submit story ideas and feedback for any of our On the Ground neighborhoods.

Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.