Perre Magness, a historian and writer, came to campus on September 12, as a visiting scholar and met with junior kindergarten girls and girls from upper school who are writers and editors of the Signpost student magazine as well as members of the digital media class.
Magness is best known for her column Past Times, about Memphis history, which she wrote for The Commercial Appeal for 16 years starting in 1987. She’s also written 12 books including Memphis: A Children’s History and In the Shadows of the Elms: Elmwood Cemetery, which won the Memphis Heritage Historical Writing Award in 2002. She read to the kindergarten class from her picture book We Live in Memphis! and discussed with them the Native Americans that lived here, how important the river is to Memphis, and the fact that the Chickasaw bluff protects the city from flooding. The kindergarten girls also got to pass around some Native American artifacts and talked about their favorite places in Memphis. The upper school girls asked Magness how she got her start as a writer and journalist (reviewing books), where she got ideas (people constantly told her stories, and her research led her to other things), and how she wrote about controversial topics (“carefully,” she said, and to be objective and learn opposing viewpoints). When asked what changes in Memphis most excite her right now, Magness said, “I’m excited about the renewal of downtown and the fact that more people are living there. In fact, there are so many families living downtown, that there are now elementary schools.”