Memphis Tennessee Garrison grew up in the coalfields of southern West Virginia. Her father, who was born into slavery, was a mine boss in Gary in McDowell County in the early 1900s.
Ilene Evans brought Garrison to life on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College’s Lunch and Learn. Performing in the Chautauqua storytelling style, Evans painted a picture of Garrison’s early life, her motivation to teach children and her subsequent involvement in the first NAACP Chapter in West Virginia.
Garrison graduated from Bluefield State College in 1939 and taught school for 35 years, focusing on special needs children. At the same time, she worked for U.S. Steel and Coke Company in Gary, where she helped mitigate disputes between workers and helped black miners and their families.
“Teach every child something,” she said. “You can’t teach some children everything, but you can teach every child something.”
Garrison went on to become a champion of civil rights and social justice. She fought for better education for African Americans and was recognized for her leadership and dedication.
The “They Call Me Miss Memphis” presentation Lunch and Learn was funded with a Diversity of Equity grant from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System.