The Religious Society of Friends began during a period of political and religious ferment in England in the 1640s. Very soon Friends had come to the colonies notably in New England, New York, and New Jersey. William Penn founded the colony of Pennsylvania in 1680, not just for Quakers, but for all religious groups based on his understanding of equality and religious tolerance.
Although the greatest concentrations of U.S. Quakers are still to be found on the east coast, Quakers have a growing presence in the South. There have been Quakers in Tennessee since the early 19th century, but the earliest meeting in Memphis wasn’t founded until 1957. For a while it was touch and go. The first group affiliated with Friends World Committee on Consultation, but was laid down in 1967. During the 1970s a worship group met near what was then Memphis State, but it too was laid down after about a decade. In the early 1980s several Friends came to Memphis and began a worship group under the care of Nashville Meeting. In 1988 that group became a fully-constituted monthly meeting under the care of Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association (SAYMA).
Memphis Friends Meeting has had several homes: Rhodes College, a church on East Parkway, a house in Cooper-Young, and since November 2008 our house on Walnut Grove at Prescott. Since our founding we have grown from a group of about a dozen to about 40 members and attenders.
In all there are 7 monthly meetings in Tennessee: Chattanooga, Cookeville, Crossville, Foxfire (Tri-cities area), Memphis, Nashville, and West Knoxville. SAYMA encompasses meetings in 8 states: North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.