Today Congressman Steve Cohen announced the National Park Service has awarded the City of Memphis’s Division of Housing and Community Development a $400,000 federal grant through the African American Civil Rights Grant Program for the Clayborn Temple Preservation Project.
The National Park Service awarded funding to 39 projects in 20 states that will preserve and highlight the sites and stories associated with the Civil Rights Movement and the African American experience. Congress appropriated funding for the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grant Program in 2016 through the Historic Preservation Fund.
“I am very pleased to announce that the City of Memphis received a $400,000 federal grant from the National Park Service for the preservation of the historic Clayborn Temple,” said Congressman Cohen. “The Clayborn Temple has held a prominent role in our city’s and nation’s history, serving as the organizing location and starting point for the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Clayborn Temple focuses to again become a spiritual and cultural hub for the city, as it is the gateway between Downtown, the Central Business District, Beale Street, the FedEx Forum and South City.”
Congressman Cohen also goes on to say,
“I was proud to help South City secure a $30 million federal Choice Neighborhood Grant in 2015 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to reinvigorate the Foote Homes housing development. I am encouraged by the work of Frank Smith and Rob Thompson who have lead the effort to restore the Clayborn Temple. I would also like to thank Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Paul Young and Felicia Harris from the city’s Division of Housing and Community Development for their work on the grant application. I was proud to write a letter of support to the National Park Service for the city’s grant application. Clayborn Temple was one of only 39 projects to receive federal funding.
Like the National Civil Rights Museum, Clayborn Temple is a phoenix rising from the ashes and part of the Memphis civil rights legacy and trail, which will educate visitors for years to come. There is no more appropriate time for Memphis to receive this grant than at the end of the presidency of Barack Obama, our nation’s first African American president, and on the eve of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Congratulations to Clayborn Temple for receiving this significant federal civil rights grant. I look forward to working in the future to help move Memphis forward.”
You can read Congressman Cohen’s letter of support to the National Park Service for the City of Memphis’s grant application here.
Clayborn Temple served as a haven for gatherings to plan, strategize, and implement efforts for racial equality and civil rights in Memphis in the 1960’s. The iconic “I Am a Man” signs align the walls at Clayborn as part of the Sanitation Workers Strike – supported by Dr. King – in 1968. After decades of non-use, Clayborn is now on track with a restoration process that commits to honoring the site’s unique history and the people who worked, worshiped and organized there. The #claybornreborn campaign is dedicated to creating a place that responds respectfully to Memphis’ growth and evolution, particularly changes coming to the site’s immediate neighborhood in Downtown Memphis.
Currently, the Clayborn Temple space is available for events and church services. Recent uses of the space have been a weekly prayer circle for racial healing, church services with Downtown Church, fundraisers, free movie nights, and pop up shops.
The nonprofit Neighborhood Preservation Inc. has begun renovation of the church. There is no set plan or cost estimate for Clayborn Temple’s future yet. It will be both a church and an active hub for community and arts events, but the formal design process hasn’t begun.