The Clayborn Temple was built in 1891 as the Second Presbyterian Church. The first service was held on Sunday October 16th, 1892. The church was built at a cost of $100,000.00 (which included stained glass windows and contents). The African American Episcopal Church purchased the property from Second Presbyterian Church in 1949 for $90,000. It was then renamed after the AME Bishop of the region Bishop JM Clayborn.
Clayborn Temple was once the hub of the civil rights movements for Memphis in the 60’s. The Downtown church served as the strategy center and refuge for striking sanitation workers and their supporters. Martin Luther King Jr. also used the church as a home base while planning marches. The famous posters used in the civil rights movement “I AM A MAN” were made in the church’s print shop.
As downtown Memphis expanded, it pushed residents further out, thus causing the congregation to dwindle and fall off. The Temple fell into disrepair in the 70’s and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.