“Martin Methodist felt like home.” – Zach Kinslow
Whether it was George Washington, James K. Polk, or Theodore Roosevelt, Zacharie “Zach” Kinslow, one of Martin Methodist College’s alumni heroes, has studied them all. From a young age, Zach had a passion for history, and he followed this budding passion all the way to Columbia State Community College, where he earned his associate’s degree in history. From there, Zach had to figure out the next step in his education while he worked at his new job at the President James K. Polk Home and Museum in Columbia, Tenn. After a recommendation to try out Martin Methodist from a friend who was a current student, Zach made the call and set up a tour.
“From my very first impression of Martin Methodist, I noticed that it felt safe,” said Zach. “It felt like home. It reminded me of the small town I grew up in, and I was really excited to start working toward my bachelor’s degree there.”
Once starting school at Martin Methodist, Zach took his passion for history and ran with it. He jumped into his studies, and with the help of his history classes and his work at the Polk Home, he began in-depth research over a Polk family slave named Elias Polk. Zach quickly learned there was not much known about Elias Polk, so he dove deeper into his research to uncover hidden details and shine light on this extraordinary individual.
“In the course of my research, I had found that Elias was buried in the Nashville City Cemetery, and through work with the cemetery’s organization, we were able to create headstones for not only Elias Polk, but also his wife Mary and Matilda Polk, another Polk slave,” said Zach. “I was given the amazing opportunity to write the epitaphs for these three and speak at the headstone presentation ceremony.”
It wasn’t long after the headstone ceremony when Zach reached out to the White House Historical Association regarding a Facebook post they made about Elias Polk. Through a series of exchanges, Zach ended up having his article, “Enslaved and Entrenched: The Complex Life of Elias Polk,” published on the White House Historical Association’s website.
As a current graduate student at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., Zach credits much of his success to Martin Methodist. “Martin Methodist was really the first place to see my Elias Polk article because I originally wrote it as a paper and presented it at the Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference,” said Zach. “I ended up taking first place, and after the presentation, I was approached by a panel commentator from Austin Peay and asked about my thoughts of graduate school. So in a roundabout way, Martin Methodist and the history department guided me to my graduate school position at Austin Peay.”
While currently attending graduate school, Zach is still working at the Polk Home. He serves as a docent, giving informational tours to guests, and he’s played a role in the creation and fabrication of the exhibit “A Delicate Game to Play.” He has also taken over as coordinator of the Polk’s America Lecture Series.