LEARN ABOUT OUR STORY
Historic Clayborn Temple engages in culture and the arts inspired by the participants of the 1968 Sanitation Workers’ Strike. Clayborn seeks to embody their declaration of the humanity and dignity of Black, poor, and working-class people and to continue their legacy of advancing human understanding through storytelling, engagement, and practice.
Clayborn Temple has been a part of Memphis and American History since 1892. First built and opened as Second Presbyterian Church, in 1949 the building was sold to an AME congregation who changed the name to Clayborn Temple.
Because of its reputation in the community and proximity to City Hall, Clayborn was chosen as the organizing headquarters for The Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968, Martin Luther King’s last campaign. The campaign’s iconic “I AM A MAN” signs were made daily in Clayborn’s basement and have since become a universal symbol for human rights and dignity.
In 1999, Clayborn Temple closed and fell into disrepair, but it has since reopened and begun revitalization. Officially named a National Treasure in 2018 by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Clayborn has come back to life with the promise of leveraging the stories of the past to tell the stories of our collective future.
Our mission, inspired by the 1968 Striking Sanitation Workers, is to continue their legacy of advancing human connection through storytelling, engagement, and practice. We do this by engaging in story, arts and culture, and embodying The Sanitation Workers’ declaration of humanity and dignity of black, poor, and working class people.
While Clayborn Temple is currently closed for restoration, our organization continues to implement story driven, community-centered programs that align with our vision. When we reopen in 2024, we will do so as a premier cultural arts center connecting downtown and historically Black South Memphis. We will be a breathtaking central space for gathering, celebration, story, and connection.
While under construction, we continue to bring Memphians together to lay the foundation for the future of Clayborn’s community based programs and explore through creativity and imagination, the values for which The Sanitation Workers so valiantly fought.
The $14M restoration of our building will include the realization of performance space, gallery space, a museum that chronicles the history of the building and The Strike, a center for community centered restorative economics, a library, and rental space for meetings, events, celebrations, and other gatherings.
Our vision is to:
- See the building fully activated with robust arts programming featuring artists from Memphis and around the globe.
- See the mission fully activated so that the intention of The Strikers lives on in our community programs.
- Become a hub for Memphis’ thriving cultural economy and a home where all are welcome and safe to build community across race and class and work for the safety, freedom, and joy for all.