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TN History for Kids

Robert Church

Robert Church Sr.
PHOTO: Pink Palace Museum

Robert Church Sr. was born a slave but by the end of his life had become the South's first African-American millionaire. After the Civil War, Church settled in Memphis and began buying and renting small apartments, eventually working his way to owning a saloon, restaurant and hotel.

In 1899, a time when black citizens weren't allowed to go into most white theaters and parks, he opened "Church's Park and Auditorium." This quickly became the cultural center for Memphis' African-American community, and among the people who appeared at this facility were President Theodore Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington and William C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues." A few years later Church was one of several black leaders who founded the Solvent Savings bank and Trust Co., the first black bank in Memphis in decades.


Robert Church

Robert Church was from Memphis, which is in Shelby County.