Summer Avenue inspires local professor to explore ‘International Memphis’

Professor working to preserve the history of Summer Ave.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One historic stretch of Memphis road is making headlines for its international influence.

Summer Avenue is seeing a recent renaissance and a local professor wants to preserve it all on paper.

Take a drive down Summer Avenue and you can’t help but notice representation of a melting pot of cultures.

Dubbed the “International District,” the diverse street caught the eye of University of Mississippi Professor Simone Delerme. She instantly wanted to learn more.

Stretch of Summer Avenue dubbed "Nations Highway"

“That surprises me,” said Delerme. “That you have this embrace of diversity. It’s a good thing, it’s a good surprise.”

Delerme says her own background and family history sparked her desire to research and write a book titled “International Memphis: Migration and Transformation in the Mid-South.”

“I’m Puerto Rican and Haitian,” said Delerme. “My father’s side of the family. Both of my parents were born and raised in New York City East Harlem, and my grandparents are immigrants so that’s part of the reason I study immigration.”

Delerm says her research will take years.

Ole Miss supported her with a summer research grant. Now she’ll start collecting data, conducting oral history interviews and documenting stories of Summer Avenue small business owners and the push-pull factors that brought them to Memphis.

Memphis’ first international district re-branded; offers unique multicultural experience for visitor

“So it’s learning about the citizens, it’s learning about the people that make this great city what it is, but learning their stories, their background and some of their struggles. I think that’s really important.”

Local historian Jimmy Ogle grew up near Summer Avenue. He says it’s been great to watch the area transform into the international district it is today.

“It’s about inclusion and seeing both sides of Summer Avenue feeding into here and the rest of the community,” said Ogle.

Delerme says she hopes the book sparks a newfound appreciation and admiration for Nations Highway.

“Summer Avenue was just, I mean it was the best place to be I’m learning,” said Delerme.

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