Clayborn Temple (Clayborn Temple A.M.E. Church; previously listed on the National Register as Second Presbyterian Church)

Status: Preserved; renovation is well underway.

Address: 294 Hernando Street (formerly 280 Hernando Street), Memphis

Built: 1891-92

Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival

Original Function/Purpose: Church

This updated listing of Clayborn Temple on the National Register (formerly known as Second Presbyterian Church) took place on July 24, 2017.

History: The congregation of Second Presbyterian Church called upon Frederick Kees and Franklin B. Long to design their church, while Memphian Edward C. Jones served as supervising architect. This property was sold in 1949 to the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was renamed Clayborn Temple to honor A.M.E. Bishop John Henry Clayborn. It was originally listed on the NR in 1979 for, among other reasons, local significance as a rare example of Romanesque Revival architecture. The recent updated listing both replaces and adds to the previous one in documenting “the national importance of the building for its close association with the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike, a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.” Clayborn opened its doors to strikers and was where the iconic “I AM A MAN” signs were printed and distributed to demonstrating marchers (top picture). Its sanctuary was no refuge on March 28, 1968, when marchers were chased into the already tear-gas-filled church by police. Two months after the strike began, sanitation workers gathered at Clayborn to accept the city’s offer to recognize their union. As time passed, the church fell into disrepair and closed in 2002. It was purchased in 2015 by nonprofit group Neighborhood Preservation Inc. which plans to return the church to religious, educational and community uses (above right). This will be assisted by a $400,000 preservation grant from the National Park Service, augmented in March 2018 by a further $500,000 NPS grant to restore the sanctuary. A month earlier the church was named to the new multi-state U.S. Civil Rights trail, along with the Lorraine Motel and Mason Temple, and it will also be a stop on the planned Memphis Heritage Trail of civil rights sites. Also, on April 5, 2018 the City of Memphis unveiled its I Am A Man Plaza next to the church. In June 2018 the church was awarded a $42,000 grant by the State of Tennessee to help restore its tower.

 

City Council District: 6

Super District: 8

County Commission District: 8

DON NEWMAN