One-hundred and fifty years ago this May, a conflict between local policemen and African American soldiers set off three days of rioting in Memphis and resulted in the deaths of nearly 50 people — almost all African Americans. Now known as the Memphis Massacre, this event heavily influenced the path of Reconstruction and the eventual passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. Over the next three months, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary, the University of Memphis and the National Park Service are partnering with several local institutions for a series of discussions, lectures, and book talks with the goal of bringing greater public awareness to this pivotal–yet largely unknown– event in our history.
The full calendar of events, more information about the Massacre, and links to resources are all available at the University of Memphis’ Memories of a Massacre website. The Memphis Public Library & Information Center will be hosting two of these events: “Great Conversations — The Memphis Massacre” with Dr. Timothy Huebner on March 22 at 5:30 pm and a Book Discussion led by Drs. Bond and O’Donovan on April 14th at 6 pm.
The Memphis and Shelby County Room houses several items relating to life in Memphis during this time period, including two illustrations of the Massacre that were originally published in Harper’s Weekly on May 26, 1866:
(Click either picture to see the full description in Dig Memphis)
Other 19th Century Memphis items may be viewed at the following links: 1820s, 1830s, 1840s, 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, 1890s.
We are very excited to host two screenings of the 1929 classic film Hallelujah! this month. Want to know more about the film? Take a look at the Hallelujah! Collection.
Black Monday Arrests
Marching on Beale Street
Freedom Sunday Meeting
Picketing on Main Street
This week we launch a new Civil Rights Collection, combining materials from various manuscript collections, including the Frank Holloman Collection, the George W. Lee Collection, the A.W. Willis, Jr. Collection, the Arthur L. Webb Collection, and the Catholic Human Relations Council Papers.
Eldon Holliday began curating this collection as an intern, but in the process of working on it we hired him to work full-time in the History Department. (And we started calling him “Chip.” He’s okay with that, but not “Chipper.” Just an FYI.) It is all a well-developed plan to make sure that he keeps doing great work like this and that he continues to add to this particular collection along the way.
This digital collection also contains a slide show, entitled The Unfulfilled Dream: A History of Race Relations and Civil Rights in Memphis since the Civil War, and images from an earlier version of the Civil Rights Digital Collection.
As Veterans Day approaches, it seems like a great time to talk about Luke Weathers, Jr.
As one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Luke Weathers, Jr., received the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with seven clusters for the dozens of missions he flew over Europe and North Africa during World War II. He was honored with a parade on Beale Street for “Luke Weathers Day” on June 25, 1945, and received the keys to the city — all part of a larger effort to raise money for the war effort. The campaign raised enough to pay for a B-24 Liberator, and it was named “The Spirit of Beale Street” in honor of the community that funded it.
After the war, Lt. Col. Weathers continued to break barriers, becoming the first African-American air traffic controller at the Memphis Airport, and helping to bring other minorities into the field.
Lt. Col. Weathers was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on January 20, 2012, with the full honors he deserved: a four-jet flyover in “missing man” formation, a horse-drawn caisson, a 21-gun salute, and the playing of “Taps.” We are extremely grateful to the Weathers family, especially his son, Luke III, for sharing these photos and stories with us.
Click here to view all of the images in Dig Memphis related to Luke Weathers, Jr.
We are pleased to announce that our new Benjamin L. Hooks Collection is now available on Dig Memphis.
This past summer, Matthew Hicks and Katie Jakovich (our archival fellows from Rhodes) processed the Benjamin L. Hooks manuscript collection and digitized selected items from that collection for inclusion here in the digital archive. In addition, Hooks’ daughter, Patricia Hooks Gray, very kindly allowed us to make digital copies of a large number of family photographs which have also been added to this digital collection.
The digital collection includes dozens of photographs of Hooks with civil rights leaders, presidents, family members and celebrities, as well as documents and reports related to his time as the Executive Director of the NAACP and a member of the FCC.
We hope you will join us on Saturday, October 25th, at 2:00 to celebrate the opening of the Benjamin L. Hooks Collection and to congratulate Matt and Katie on a job well done.
This document, created by Shirley Neely, is an oft-requested resource in the Memphis Room. Featuring a transcription and compilation of the records of one of the largest slave dealers in Memphis during the middle part of the 1800s, this manuscript is now available in its entirety in the archive. Pages 1-38 are a day-to-day accounting by Isaac Bolton for the months of March and April 1865. Pages 39-79 list the names of slaves, purchase prices, etc. Pages 80-91 include entries for sale of slaves. Pages 92-99 are transcriptions of correspondence and the last section includes newspaper articles and advertisements.
Hallelujah!, the first movie musical to feature an all-black cast, was released in 1929 by MGM Studios. Filmed in part on location in the Memphis area, several Memphians were featured in the cast, including Georgia Woodruff. Woodruff’s daughter, Ruby Woodruff Carter, donated this collection to the Memphis and Shelby County Room. The collection includes personal photos, publicity photos, newspaper clippings and correspondence about the film and the life of Ms. Woodruff.
In 1986, the library received special permission from MGM for a one-time screening of the film, and several programs and discussions were held in conjunction with that showing. Two events were videotaped and are available here as well:
Hallelujah!: A Discussion, Historically Speaking: The “Hallelujah!” Collection at the Memphis Room (Visit our Vimeo Channel by clicking here.)
Our thanks to Katy Tait and Candice Joyner for their hard work to digitize this collection! Click here to view it now.