WKNO Looks at History of Orange Mound Neighborhood
MEMPHIS, TN -"A Community Called
Orange Mound", premiering Monday, February 4 and Feb. 5 at 9:00 p.m.
and on Friday, Feb. 8 at 3:00 p.m. on WKNO/Channel
10, is the story of a southeast Memphis neighborhood with a
surprising legacy. While the name may be familiar, few outside its
boundaries know anything about Orange Mound apart from fleeting and
usually negative images on the evening news.
The broadcast of the 60-minute documentary is sponsored by The New
Olivet Baptist Church; Fred L. Davis Insurance Agency; and Tim
Thompson, author of The Locker Room.
With roots going back to the time of plantations and slavery, Orange
Mound grew at the end of the nineteenth century out of the remains
of that defunct way of life. Established on the grounds of the
former Deaderick plantation, it was one of the first communities in
the United States to be built entirely by and for African Americans.
At a time when Jim Crow laws made property ownership out of reach to
most black southerners, white real estate developer Elzy Eugene
Meachem purchased a portion of the plantation on the eastern fringes
of Memphis owned by the once-prominent Deaderick family.
Despite the primitive and sometimes harsh conditions that marked its
early years, the self-contained community that emerged attracted not
only laborers and domestic workers, but also doctors, lawyers,
businessmen, and teachers, all of whom were proud to call Orange
Mound home. Amid the blend of diverse influences, a disproportionate
number of neighborhood children grew to become successful and
influential members of a wide range of professions.
Although probably best known for athletes such as pro-football
players Andre Lott, Jerome Woods, and Dewayne Robertson, to name
just a few; Olympic Gold medallists Sheila Echols and Rochelle
Stevens; and, of course, basketball's Larry Finch, sports is by no means
the only vocation to which
Orange Mound has contributed.
B. B. King played some of his earliest gigs on the stage of W.C.
Handy Theater while staying with his cousin, blues legend and Orange
Mound resident Bukkah White, while other music greats such as
creators of the "Memphis Sound" Willie Mitchell and Carl Cunningham,
and Grammy Award Winner and current Stax CEO Kirk Whalum played
their first notes as members of the Melrose High School band.
A 1957 Melrose
graduate and the first African American to earn a medical degree
from the University of Tennessee, Dr. Alvin Crawford is an
internationally recognized expert in childhood bone disorders with
numerous awards for his pioneering work in orthopedic surgery.
Civic activism has always been its hallmark. Leaders in the
political and legal professions that call Orange Mound home include
Harper Brewer, the first black Speaker pro tem of the Tennessee
House of Representatives, Kenneth Whalum (Junior and Senior); and
Justices Otis Higgs, Jr., Gwen Rooks, Walter Evans, and Ernestine
of the closest-knit groups in Memphis, the residents of Orange Mound
are still intensely loyal to the neighborhood that has been home to
many families for generations," said producer Jay Killingsworth.
"And they all say the same thing: even though they can live
elsewhere and have had opportunities to do so, Orange Mound is home
and that is where they intend to stay."
Killingsworth, who moved to Memphis as a teenager, has worked in
video production for more than thirty years, producing corporate and
instructional videos. This is his second independent documentary
film to air on WKNO, after the 2010 feature Memphis & Charleston
Railroad: A Marriage of the Waters.
A Community Called Orange Mound airs Monday, February 4 at 9:00 p.m.
and repeats at midnight on WKNO. It also airs Tuesday, February 5 at
9:00 p.m. on WKNO2, available over the air on Channel 10.2 and on
Comcast Cable Channel 910. Check local listings for future air
WKNO is a non-profit, private foundation serving the Mid-South for
more than 56 years. An important community resource, WKNO uses the
power of non-commercial public broadcasting to provide the Mid-South
with quality educational and cultural programs that inform,
entertain, and inspire. For more information: wkno.org