Nov. 17, 2016 Orange Mound is the first black neighborhood in America to be built by black people for black people in America. The historic community now enjoys the distinction of being designated a Preserve America community.
Under this distinction, Orange Mound is recognized by the White House as a historic community that protects and celebrates it’s heritage, uses its historic assets for economic development and community revitalization and encourages people to experience appreciate local historic resources.
The community, which derives it’s name from the orange trees present on the Deaderick Plantation that once sat in the same place as the community, started when a developer started selling lots of the land he purchased from the Deadericks to black people at $100 a lot (pretty pricey for a small lot in the 1800’s). Eventually the community became home to black soldiers and their families, teachers and business leaders. Orange Mound is home to one Memphis’s oldest restaurants, 70 year-old Orange Mound Grill and the south’s first, licensed, black owned insurance agency, Fred Davis Insurance. Though the community faced decline through the 1980’s drug epidemic and the subsequent war on drugs of the 1990’s, the community is now experiencing a resurgence. Young, black professionals are moving back into the community after college, taking advantage of housing costs and joining community initiatives.Orange Mound recently celebrated it’s 125 year anniversary with parades, cookouts and other activities. Community leadership recognized State Representative G.A. Hardaway for his engagement in the community and efforts to help the Orange Mound attain national recognition as an historic site. Hardaway introduced House Resolution 307 to recognize the legacy and historic resources of the community.
Orange Mound has a very active senior community which plans most of the community activities, including the 125 year anniversary and works to preserve it’s historic sites, including Melrose High School, founded in 1918 and more then 10 historic churches, including Mt. Pisgah, which offered refuge to protesters during the civil rights movement.
The senior community also has worked with members of the community to support drug rehabilitation programs to boost the slow recovery from the debilitating health epidemic and has worked with the National Park Services and local youth to establish a museum to commemorate the 1866 Memphis Massacre. The community has now added fitness, community gardens, political engagement and volunteer programs throughout the community, despite facing severe lack of funding and economic disenfranchisement from the City of Memphis government.
This historic designation now makes Orange Mound eligible for grants and other opportunities. Congressman Steve Cohen has expressed support of the initiative.