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.
Today we are very excited to announce that the Memphis & Shelby County Room is the new repository for WREG Channel 3’s broadcasts of the Memphis in May Sunset Symphony. Late last year WREG graciously donated their broadcasts to the library and we have been hard at work preparing these to go up on Dig Memphis for your enjoyment. The broadcasts span a 12 year period from 1988 -2000 and include such highlights as the 20th Anniversary concert (1996), performances from Ruby Wilson (1992) and Isaac Hayes (1994), a symphonic work composed by the King of Thailand (1995) and, of course, many renditions of “Ol’ Man River” by the inimitable James Hyter (1988-1998).
We are going to be rolling out all these broadcasts over the next few weeks but today you can view both the entirety of the 1994 and 1998 broadcasts on Dig Memphis (all the broadcasts will also be available on our Vimeo channel). While every concert is a treat, we have chosen to post these two broadcasts first because of their special significance: the 1994 broadcast features a special performance from Isaac Hayes (including the “Theme from ‘Shaft'”) and the 1998 broadcast represents the end of an era with the final performances of both Maestro Alan Balter and James Hyter.
We would once again like to give a large and sincere Thank You to WREG for the donation of these videos, insuring that, although the Sunset Symphony is no longer a part of Memphis in May, music lovers the world over can watch these incredible performances whenever they desire. Enjoy!
The 1994 broadcast may be viewed by following these links: Part 1, Part 2.
The 1998 broadcast may be viewed by following these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
While many people are familiar with the music of the famed Stax label, the story of its earliest day isn’t one that’s frequently told. In our latest podcast episode, we explore the life and music of Charles “Packy” Axton, son of Stax co-founder Estelle Axton. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the music of the Stax label would’ve been very different if not for Packy’s early involvement. If you’d like to read more about Stax and southern soul music be sure to check out Respect Yourself by Robert Gordon, Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick, and Soulsville U.S.A., by Rob Bowman.
Need some music to listen to while you read? Check out our Packy Axton playlist on Spotify. Other Memphis Room Music Show episodes are also available at Dig Memphis.
Most Memphians, whether it be through Piggly Wiggly or the Pink Palace, are at least somewhat familiar with Clarence Saunders. Famous in his own time for inventing the self-service grocery store in 1916, Saunders quite literally revolutionized grocery shopping. Though he lost much of his fortune and was forced to sell the partially completed Pink Palace due to stock market woes, Saunders wasn’t done innovating by a long shot.
A large part of this new digital collection focus on Saunders’ second grocery store model: Keedoozle. Perhaps the best way to describe Keedoozle is as a giant vending machine for all your grocery shopping needs. Insufficient technology of the day prevented Saunders’ aotumation vision from achieving its true potential and the concept never took hold.
This collection was digitzed by Rhodes Alumnus and occasional Histroy Department volunteer Matthew Moore.
View the collection, including materials from both grocery store chains here.
Joe Lowry has donated a small collection of 70 photographs that feature some incredible aerial shots of Memphis. A label on the box suggested that these photos were shot by the Secret Service in preparation for a visit from President Nixon in 1968. Actually, the photos date to about 10 years later, and it is very likely that they were shot in preparation for President Carter’s visit to Memphis in December of 1978 for the Democratic Midterm Convention. Included in the images are numerous shots of the interior and exterior of Cook Convention Center, where the convention was held, and photos of the Holiday Inn Rivermont, where the President and First Lady spent the night.
Take a look at the photos and you’ll be able to see some pretty great views of Memphis as it was growing and changing.
There are a couple of very striking images of downtown that show the immediate aftereffects of urban renewal:
Or, check out Poplar and Park near St. Francis Hospital:
Several photos cover the Medical District. Here is Baptist Hospital with its very visible helipad:
There are even a few color photos to round out the collection.
Enjoy! And thank you, Joe!
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.