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.
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.
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.
The balcony at the National Civil Rights Museum. A wreath marks where Martin Luther King, Jr. was standing when he was shot. From the Arthur Webb Collection.
On August 15, 1958, Jesse H. Turner, a bank cashier, filed suit against the Memphis Public Library in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee to force the library’s Board of Directors to allow equal access for African Americans to all facilities. Filed by attorneys from the NAACP, the suit named librarian Jesse Cunningham (who retired that year, to be replaced by C. Lamar Wallis), library board president Wassell Randolph and all members of the library board as defendants.
Over the course of the next three years, the battle to integrate Memphis’ libraries would be waged primarily in the courts. Ultimately, libraries and their restrooms would be fully accessible to all, as per the order by Judge William E. Miller.
The Library Integration Collection contains legal documents, letters and news reports related to the desegregation of the Memphis Public Library and Information Center. These documents were saved by library staff and include papers from C. Lamar Wallis’ personal files, so although they are not an exhaustive record of that period of the library’s history, they are extremely telling in consideration of both the inclusions and the omissions.