Lincoln League

The Lincoln League was a Republican Party organization founded by Robert R. Church Jr. on February 12, 1916, in Memphis and named for Republican President Abraham Lincoln. Church, whose father had been one of the first black millionaires in the South, wanted white Republicans representing the national office to recognize and appreciate the support African American voters made to the party. Since the 1870s black Memphians had been actively involved in city and state politics, but their participation did not produce solid political patronage. Recognizing the potential influence of black voters, Church organized several black business and professional men to form the League. T. H. Hayes, J. B. Martin, Levoy McCoy, Bert M. Roddy, and J. T. Settle were among the first to back the organization. From the beginning, the league had an impact on Republican politics in West Tennessee. Mass meetings were held in the black-owned Church Park Auditorium on Beale Street, where members rallied against racism and violence. The league organized clubs in black wards, collected money to pay the poll taxes of poor blacks, established night schools to educate African Americans about voting, and nominated candidates for state and national political offices. In August 1916 close to sixteen hundred African Americans from Hardeman, Tipton, and Fayette Counties joined with the Memphis-Shelby County contingent to nominate candidates for the November elections. The league quickly earned the national Republican Party's attention. Church became a key politician for the party in the South and helped organize a Lincoln League of America. The Lincoln League made an important contribution to the modern Civil Rights movement by promoting African American racial solidarity.

Suggested Reading

Lester C. Lamon, Black Tennesseans 1900-1930 (1977); David M. Tucker, Lieutenant Lee of Beale Street (1971)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Lincoln League
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date June 17, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018