Earnestine Lovelle Jenkins was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Parents, Earnest and Lovelle Fouse Jenkins migrated to Memphis, respectively from Desoto County and Brownsville, Tennessee. My maternal great grandfather, Anderson Fouse, was a runaway slave from Alamance County, North Carolina. Previously owned by a family of German extraction, Anderson made his way to Tennessee during the Civil War where he bought land and farmed, and that farm remains in the Fouse family today. Following emancipation, my paternal great grandfather, Sam Mineral Jenkins, earned his teaching certificate in Mississippi. During the 1910s he migrated to Memphis where he worked as one of the first Black faculty to teach at LeMoyne Normal Institute, founded by the American Missionary Association to educate freed people after the war. It is now our city’s only HBCU; historic LeMoyne-Owen College.
My life has been shaped by such stories, remembered and preserved as family histories passed down as oral tradition. They inspired the pursuit of learning as a student in segregated schools at Norris Road Elementary and Ford Road Elementary (where my mother founded the library), and then on to Whitehaven Elementary, where I was one of three Black students ordered to integrate the school in 1968. The latter experience made me determined to attend a Black college. I chose the unique experience at Spelman College, which has been invaluable. As a doctoral student in the History Department at Michigan State University, I majored in African History, minored in African American Studies and Art History, and carried out fieldwork in Ethiopia.
Today, in my role as a full professor of Art History at the University of Memphis, I get to bring together my varied interests in the expressive cultures-histories of the African Diaspora, including African American history in Memphis. I hope to contribute to the Lynching Sites Project mission, as outlined in its strategic plan and marketing goals, by drawing upon a background in education teaching about difficult histories, in both academic and non-academic contexts. The work of LSP is an ethical and spiritual responsibility, that as a Memphian, I welcome the opportunity to serve.