Jackson artist works on restoration of historic Civil Rights site in Memphis

Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 7:35 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A Jackson artist is helping with renovations of the site where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. focused his final efforts before he was killed.

Clayborn Temple in Memphis has played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement. Midtown arts entrepreneur Andrew Young is bringing new vision to the windows of the soul of the historic church.

“These windows have lived through a lot,” said Young. The art glass specialist is tasked with preserving Civil Rights history.

The owner of Pearl River Glass Studio in Midtown was chosen to restore the stained glass windows that hung in Clayborn Temple in Memphis.

The church is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped sanitation workers organize their 1968 strike.

“These windows were damaged after the riots that they had,” said Young. “So, we’ve taken them out and we’re gonna completely take them apart, completely restore them and put them all back in original condition.”

In April of 1968, King returned to Memphis to march with the sanitation workers. Days later he was assassinated there.

“The preacher at the church was also a printer and he had the printing press in the basement that printed the iconic posters the “I AM A MAN”; black letters on white cardboard that were used throughout the strike,” said the artist.

Work began in September removing 15 windows. The more than century-old scenes are of flower motifs and geometric patterns which were in Clayborn Temple’s sanctuary.

“Even before I walked into the church I could tell they were in bad shape,” said the Midtown business owner. Artists at the studio will be assisting Young with the transformations.

The Memphis church is undergoing renovations to become a community center. Young will also oversee new commissioned glass artwork that will depict the strike and King’s work at the church.

“It’s kind of part of your job is to make sure history preserves these beautiful things,” added Young. In about a year the stained glass windows will be renewed.

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