Robert R. Church Park

Robert Reed Church was an African-American entrepreneur and landowner who lived most of his adult life in Memphis.  His father, Charles B. Church was a white steamboat owner-captain.  His mother, Emmeline, was a mixed-race slave owned by his father.  She died when Robert was 12 years old.  His father never legally or formally recognized his son and didn’t educate him.  However he did train him in the steamboat business where he was able to work as a steward – the highest position that a black could achieve.  In 1862 Church was working as a steward on the steamer “Victoria” when it was captured by Union troops during the Civil War.  The Union left the 23 year old Church stranded in Memphis – and from then on he essentially became a self-made man and amassed a fortune.

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