Historic African American Church Awarded Grants

Memphis church built by the hands and resources of slaves gets federal grant for infrastructure

Memphis, Sept. 27, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- MEMPHIS, TN—Historic Collins Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, 678 Washington Ave., Memphis, TN established in 1841, was Memphis’ first church congregation of color.

Collins Chapel Church is pleased to announce that it has received approx. $548,000 in grants from the African American Civil Rights grant program of the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.  The Collins Chapel Church building is one of Memphis’ most historically, culturally and architecturally significant structures built by and for Black people.


The church has weathered many difficult storms.  Lightning strikes sparked two serious fires at Collins Chapel.  Then, in May 1866, the Memphis Massacre erupted when angry mobs of whites stole, murdered and burned black churches and schools.  The Collins Chapel Church, then a 25 year old wooden structure, was burned to the ground, as were all the other black churches and schools in Memphis.  No one was ever charged for the arson, terrorism and brutal mass killings of 46 black people.

Nevertheless, the church, originally built by slaves and freedmen, was rebuilt.  Collins Chapel became a place of worship for historic icons including Global journalist, anti-lynching crusader, NAACP co-founder Ida B. Wells, The Father of the Blues W.C. Handy and famed blues and jazz singer/songwriter Alberta Hunter.  The Collins Chapel Church has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1991.

“Our collective testimony is to God Be the Glory,” stated Rev. Bethel L. Harris pastor of Collins Chapel Church.  “It is only by God’s grace, mercy and blessings that Collins Chapel continues to thrive by receiving these wonderful grants for example and has survived here for nearly 181 years.”

The church received a Pre-Preservation planning grant of nearly $48,000 for assessment/analysis of structural evaluation plus identifying necessary improvements to the infrastructure, ventilation, plumbing and electrical systems.  Collins Chapel Church also received a Physical Preservation grant of $500,000 for pre-construction and construction costs for structural enhancement, exterior envelope repairs, mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades, interior modernization repairs and site improvements.

Memphis-based Self + Tucker Architects is the architectural firm of record for these grants and has a close working relationship with Collins Chapel CME Church spanning over three decades.


CONTACT: Bethel Harris Collins Chapel ahines@trustmkt.com