North Memphis

High Ground Says 'See You Later' to North Memphis

We're saying "see you later" to our 14th On the Ground community, North Memphis. Our intensive focus will end, but we'll stay connected and continue to tell its stories.

Currently in the works is a series that puts North Memphis at the center of a critical question: Why are black Memphians bearing the brunt of serious COVID-19 cases and deaths?

The simple answer is that black Memphians have higher rates of preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

That imbalance is most concentrated in historically black communities like North Memphis. When disease plagues whole communities, they're symptoms of a deeper malady.

We're focusing the series on three key factors underlying rates of chronic conditions: environmental racism, toxic homes, and the deadly inequities of healthcare in America. 

If you have an idea for a North Memphis story or story from any of our On the Ground neighborhoods, email [email protected]. Find all of our neighborhoods and their focused coverage at

Many Firsts

We knew going into North Memphis that our strategies would be different.

We embedded our team for six months instead of our usual three. We then took a zoned approach that allowed us to cover the entire North Memphis area while calling out some of the distinct neighborhoods within its boundaries. 

We were privileged to witness a historic moment in Klondike & Smokey City with Shelby County's first mass land transfer to its' resident-led CDC. We were humbled when the Douglass community came together to feed their neighbors in need and celebrate Juneteenth. 

We also kicked off a six-week course in Bickford-Bearwater to train five of its residents in neighborhood-based reporting. Soon they'll be covering North Memphis from their on-the-ground expert perspectives. 

What we never could have anticipated was the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Beginning in March, most of the people, places, and things we normally cover were closed, cancelled, or staying "safer at home." Like many media outlets, we also saw a reduction in staff and the number of stories we could produce. 

Despite the challenges, we can say we met our two highest-level goals for all On the Ground communities. We built what we hope are lasting relationships, and we worked with stakeholders to create a nuanced narrative that acknowledges the area's challenges but focuses on the folks doing the hard work to see greater progress and prosperity.

Top stories from our time in North Memphis. 

"Podcast: Making Memphis' real estate industry more diverse"

"Vollintine-Evergreen seeks landmark designation to preserve its unique history and aesthetic"

"Nonprofits strike history-making deal with Shelby County for land transfer in Klondike, Smokey City"

"With the season cancelled, Memphis Inner City Rugby serves off the field"

"The power of knowledge brings power to the people in North Memphis"

"When COVID-19 relief didn't come, Douglass residents stepped up for their own"

"Video: Juneteenth in Douglass Park"

"In food deserts, COVID-related restaurant closures are especially devastating"
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

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.