History of Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is the most "Deep South" of all Tennessee cities, founded on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River just a few miles upstream from the Tennessee-Mississippi border. It was platted in 1819, not far from where the French had earlier established Fort Prudhomme, and was incorporated as a city in 1826. During the Civil War, it was held by the Confederacy until the Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862, after which it remained in Union hands. After the war, the development of Memphis was retarded by repeated episodes of yellow fever, particularly an 1870 outbreak that cost many lives.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Memphis saw a protracted strike by its mostly Black sanitation workers, who demanded and eventually received better economic treatment. It was also in Memphis that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassainated while he stood on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.

On the positive side, Memphis is known for its influence on American music. Such icons as B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, and Johnny Cash have all contributed to the music scene in Memphis, but by far the most famous was Elvis Presley. Presley's mansion, Graceland, is now a monument that attracts a multitude of fans from far and wide.

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Black Fire Portrait of a Black Memphis Firefighter by Robert J. Crawford Sr., with Delores A. Crawford.
Robert J. Crawford was one of twelve black firefighters hired by the City of Memphis in the mid-1970s, amid racial turmoil and pressures of integratio...
A Brief History of Memphis by G. Wayne Dowdy.
No other southern city has a history quite like Memphis. First purchased in the early 1800s from natives to serve as a vital port for the emerging Ame...
Clarence Saunders and the Founding of Piggly Wiggly The Rise & Fall of a Memphis Maverick by Mike Freeman.
The grocery business began as a complicated service industry. Random pricing, inconsistent quantities and prescriptive salesmen made grocery shopping ...
Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin by Hampton Sides.
On April 23, 1967, Prisoner #416J, an inmate at the notorious Missouri State Penitentiary, escaped in a breadbox. Fashioning himself Eric Galt, this n...

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