Orange Mound

Orange Mound to celebrate its centennial, Black History Month, and the Memphis Heritage Trail

On Saturday, February 22,  residents and friends of Orange Mound will celebrate the community's 100th year with the Centennial Year Celebration #2.

The two in the title signifies the continuation of the celebration from 2019 to 2020.

The event will include music, food, performances, and tours through Orange Mound's history and heritage. It will take place at Melrose High School, located at 2870 Deadrick Avenue, from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m.

The celebration will mark the connection of Orange Mounds' history to Memphis' broader Black and African American history.

Orange Mound, along with Soulsville and South City, are the newest additions to the Memphis Heritage. The Memphis Heritage Trail is a self-guided tour highlighting noteworthy events in Memphis' African American history, as well as African Americans who helped shape the city's communities and cultural heritage in Memphis. Phase I of the project focused on the Downtown area.

At the Orange Mound centennial celebration, attendees can take a bus tour through Orange Mound following the trail's newly unveiled wayfinding markers that link historic locations and markers.

The celebration is organized by the Orange Mound Historical Heritage Society in conjunction with the City of Memphis Division Housing and Community Development and the Memphis Heritage Trail.

The celebration will include performances by Melrose High's choir and band and a skit showcasing the history of Orange Mound. Community members and city officials will make appearances, including Mayor Jim Stickland, Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen, and HCD's Felicia Harris. 

“There is a heritage room at Melrose High School ... that has history of the community and Melrose High School," said Roniece Gilkey, who is a member of the centennial committee. "People will be able tour [it]."

There is a planned food reception to conclude the event. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP at 901-268-3740.

The Orange Mound Historical Heritage Society meets on February 12 for final planning of the Orange Mound Centennial Celebration #2. (Alexandria Moore)

OranGe Mound's History-Making Past

When the world recalls the names of historic African American communities like New York’s Harlem, Los Angeles’ Crenshaw, or Atlanta’s College Park, they shouldn’t forget to mention Memphis’ notable Orange Mound.

Orange Mound was a township founded in 1890 and incorporated into the City of Memphis on May 22, 1919.

Growing out of the site of a former plantation, Orange Mound was the first self-sustaining African American community post-Civil War.

African Americans built and owned their own homes. The community thrived with every type of business needed from grocers to doctors. African Americans from across the South settled in Orange Mound for the hope of a better life it provided.

This self-sustaining lifestyle and community unity resulted in Orange Mound receiving federal recognition for its important heritage. 

Related: 'Orange Mound receives federal recognition for its African-American heritage'

Ellen Perkins is a lifelong Orange Mound resident and member of the OMHHS. She is also a member and usher of the oldest church in Orange Mound, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church on Carnes Avenue.

“From Pendleton Street and Carnes Avenue down to Marechalneil Street and Carnes Avenue was Main Street Orange Mound," said Perkins. "We had everything we needed from lawyers, to doctors, grocery stores, service stations, funeral homes ... in that strip along Carnes Avenue along with the church,” she added.

“The people were very close, and they instilled in us a sense of pride,” said Perkins. “Everyone owned their own home."

Perkins attended Melrose through her entire childhood from first to 12th grade and said the school is a critical piece of Orange Mound's more recent history.

“We bleed maroon and gold,” said Perkins of the Melrose school colors and the neighborhood’s deep commitment to the school.

The OMHHS was organized in 2018. The society began celebrating Orange Mound’s centennial in 2019 but found they couldn’t fit all of their planned events before the May anniversary date. Rather than scrape the ideas, the committee decided to continue in 2020.

The committee members said there may be one last celebration event this summer. With updates and revitalization underway at Orange Mound Park, the event may be held there, but there are no definitive plans as of yet.

“We are proud of us and proud of Orange Mound being spotlighted in a positive light,” said Perkins.

Author Alexandria Moore is a High Ground News Community Correspondent.. Correspondents complete a six-week training and mentorship program to become neighborhood-based reporters. Correspondents live in underserved communities and hope to correct negative neighborhood narratives by diving into the nuances underlying big challenges and solutions.
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Read more articles by Alexandria Moore.

Alexandria Moore is a healthcare professional and freelance writer. Moore is a resident of Orange Mound and graduate of the first High Ground News Community Correspondents program.