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Historic Memphis church renovations underway in the Capital City

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 7:05 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - In February, we featured a Jackson artist who is a part of the team renovating windows of the Memphis church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last spoke.

This week artists from Memphis are hard at work inside the Midtown studio recreating the stories of the Sanitation Workers Strike in stained glass.

“What we’re doing with them, we’re honoring the women who really got lost in the story,” said Lonnie Robinson of Memphis.

The graphic and stained glass artist is working on the portrait of Maxine Smith, a Memphis civil rights activist instrumental in the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike. It is one of the window panes that will hang in Clayborn Temple in Memphis.

“It’s about really restoring a gap in history that we can re-approach and try to do the right thing,” said Robinson.

Pearl River Glass Studios is restoring 17 stained glass windows and two murals that were damaged in riots following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in the city. King marched with striking sanitation workers in 1968 when he was killed. The church was the focal point of organizing the strike and Civil Rights Movement activities.

Studio owner Andrew Young is working with the artists on a concept that will combine depictions of the strike, local civil rights activists and the current justice movements.

“That whole narrative story was fascinating to me, and I wanted to be a part of it,” said Young. “We have the new look and we have the historical work. So we’re working on how to blend those two styles together so that it looks like a seamless image”.

Painter Sharday Michelle designed three glass windows. She’s included in the images the “I Am A Man” slogan, We Shall Overcome, Black Lives Matter and Yes We Can.

“I wanted to do something that would bring hope and healing to the communities and find a way to just bring the past, present and future into this project,” said Michelle.

The completed work will hang on the west and south sides of the church. Renovations will begin soon to transform Clayborn Temple into a community center. The stained glass panes and murals are expected to be installed early next year.

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