Jane Wright

Jul 30, 2013

Jane Wright
Credit African Americans in Memphis by Earnestine Lovelle Jenkins

Jane Wright was a social pioneer in the early years of Memphis. Jane and her twin sister Eliza were born in Memphis in 1835 to Benjamin Wright, a member of a wealthy Quaker family of abolitionists. Their mother, Ann, was Benjamin Wright’s Afro-Indian housekeeper.

He took his two daughters and their mother to Cario, IL, to seek their manumission, to ensure their freedom. From Illinois, the Wright’s came back to Memphis where Benjamin owned a large plantation and a general store.

Benjamin built a home for his daughters on Front street, but when he passed away his daughters found themselves facing the harsh world of the early 19th century. Their property was seized under dubious charges and their freedom was called into question until a lawyer presented manumission papers to local authorities. 

The sisters persevered, surviving these challenges. Both married and raised families. Jane married Col. James Coleman, manager of the Memphis telegraph office and a respected citizen in Memphis.

Her parlor was a gathering spot for the elite of Memphis and America. Frederick Douglas was a guest to her house on his visit to Memphis.

Jane passed away in 1909, having seen Memphis grow form a small town to a large city.

To learn more about all of our region's history, visit the Pink Palace Family of Museums, or on Facebook, or at http://www.memphismuseums.org.