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Memphis

HistoryEdit Main article: History of Memphis, Tennessee See also: Timeline of Memphis, Tennessee Early historyEdit A Mississippian era priest (Digital illustration, 2004) Occupying a substantial bluff rising from the Mississippi River, the site of Memphis has been a natural location for human settlement by varying cultures over thousands of years. The area was known to be settled in the first millennium CE by people of the Mississippian Culture, who had a network of communities throughout the Mississippi River Valley and its tributaries and built earthwork ceremonial and burial mounds. The historic ChickasawIndian tribe, believed to be their descendants, later occupied the site. They were the ones to encounter European explorers to the area, beginning in the 16th century with Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and French explorers led by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.[8] In 1795 the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, acquired land for a fort from the Chickasaw. Fort San Fernando de las Barrancas[9] was built in the summer of 1795 on the fourth Chickasaw Bluff, just south of the Wolf River. It gave Spain control of navigation on the Mississippi River in the region, but they abandoned it after Spain ceded the territory to the United States under Pinckney's Treaty.[10][11] The Spanish dismantled the fort, shipping its lumber and iron to their other locations in Arkansas. In 1796, the site became the westernmost point of the newly admitted state of Tennessee, located in the Southwest United States but the area was largely occupied and controlled by the Chickasaw nation. Captain Isaac Guion led an American force down the Ohio River to claim the land, arriving on July 20, 1797. By this time, the Spanish had departed.[12] The fort's ruins went unnoticed twenty years later when Memphis was laid out as a city, after the United States government paid the Chickasaw for land.[13] 19th centuryEdit Memphis in the mid-1850s The European-American city of Memphis was founded on May 22, 1819 (incorporated December 19, 1826) by John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson.[14][15] They named it after the ancient capital of Egypt on the Nile River.[16] Memphis developed as a trade and transportation center in the 19th century because of its flood-free location high above the Mississippi River. Located in the low-lying delta region along the river, its outlying areas were developed as cotton plantations, and the city became a major cotton market and brokerage center. The cotton economy of the antebellum South depended on the forced labor of large numbers of African-American slaves, and Memphis also developed as a major slave market for the domestic slave trade. Through the early 19th century, one million slaves were transported from the Upper South, in a huge forced migration to newly developed plantation areas. Many were transported by steamboats along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. In 1857, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was completed, connecting the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina and this major Mississippi River port; it was the only east-west railroad constructed across the southern states prior to the Civil War. This gave planters and cotton brokers access to the Atlantic Coast for shipping cotton to England, a major market. The city's demographics changed dramatically in the 1850s and 1860s under waves of immigration and domestic migration. Due to increased immigration since the 1840s and the Great Famine, ethnic Irish made up 9.9 percent of the population in 1850, but 23.2 percent in 1860, when the total population was 22,623.[17][18][19] They had encountered considerable discrimination in the city but by 1860, the Irish constituted most of the police force. They also gained many elected and patronage positions in the Democratic Party city government, and an Irish man was elected as mayor before the Civil War. At that time, representatives were elected to the city council from 30 wards. The elite were worried about corruption in this system and that so many saloonkeepers were active in the wards. German immigrants also made this city a destination following the 1848 revolutions; both the Irish and Germans were mostly Catholic, adding another element to demographic change in this formerly Protestant city. Tennessee seceded from the Union in June 1861, and Memphis briefly became aConfederate stronghold. Union ironclad gunboats captured the city in the naval Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862, and the city and state were occupied by the Union Army for the duration of the war. The Union Army commanders allowed the city to maintain its civil government during most of this period but excluded Confederate veterans from office, which shifted political dynamics in the city as the war went on.[20] As Memphis was used as a Union supply base, associated with nearby Fort Pickering, it continued to prosper economically throughout the war. Meanwhile, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrestharassed Union forces in the area. The war years contributed to additional dramatic changes in city population. The presence of the Union Army attracted many fugitive slaves who escaped from surrounding rural plantations. So many sought protection behind Union lines that the Army set upcontraband camps to accommodate them. The black population of Memphis increased from 3,000 in 1860, when the total population was 22,623, to nearly 20,000 in 1865, with most settling south of what was then the city limits.[21] The white population was also increasing, but not to the same degree. The total population in 1870 was 40,220, after thousands of blacks had left the city; they numbered 15,000 that year, or 37.4% of the total.(See census table in Demographics section.) Postwar years, Reconstruction and Democratic controlEdit The rapid demographic changes, added to the stress of war and occupation, and uncertainty about who was in charge, resulted in growing tensions between the Irish policemen and black Union soldiers following the war.[20] In three days of rioting in early May 1866, the Memphis Riot erupted, in which white mobs made up of policemen, firemen, and other mostly ethnic Irish, attacked and killed 46 blacks, wounding 75 and injuring 100 persons; raped several women, and destroyed nearly 100 houses while severely damaging churches and schools in South Memphis. Much of the settlement was left in ruins. Two whites were killed in the riot.[21] Many blacks permanently fled Memphis after the riot, especially as the Freedmen's Bureau continued to have difficulty in protecting them. Their population fell to about 15,000 by 1870,[20] or 37.5% of the city, which then had a total population of 40,226.(See census table in Demographics section.) Historian Barrington Walker suggests that the Irish rioted against blacks because of their relatively recent arrival as immigrants and the uncertain nature of their own claim to "whiteness"; they were trying to separate themselves from blacks in the underclass. The main fighting participants were ethnic Irish, decommissioned black Union soldiers, and newly emancipated freedmen from the African-American community. Walker suggests that most of the mob were not in direct economic conflict with the blacks, as by then the Irish had attained better jobs, but the Irish were establishing dominance over the freedmen.[19] In Memphis, unlike disturbances in some other cities, ex-Confederate veterans were generally not part of the attacks against blacks. The outrages of the riot in Memphis and a similar one in New Orleans in September (the latter did include Confederate veterans) resulted in support in the North for Congress to pass the Reconstruction Act and the Fourteenth Amendment.[21] In the 1870s, a series of yellow fever epidemics devastated Memphis, with the disease being carried by river passengers along the waterways. During the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 in Memphis, Tennessee, more than 5000 people were listed in the official register of deaths between July 26 and November 27. The vast majority of them died of yellow fever, making the epidemic in the city of 40,000 people one of the most traumatic and severe in urban United States’ history. Within four days of the Memphis Board of Health’s declaration of a yellow fever outbreak, 20,000 residents had fled the city. The panic ensuing left the poverty-stricken, the working classes, and the African American community at the disposal of the epidemic. Those who remained in Memphis relied on volunteers from religious and physician organizations to tend to the sick. By the end of the year, more than 5,000 were confirmed dead in Memphis. The New Orleans health board listed "not less than 4,600" dead. The Mississippi Valley experienced 120,000 cases of yellow fever, with 20,000 deaths. The $15 million in losses caused by the epidemic bankrupted the city of Memphis, and as a result their charter was revoked. By 1870, Memphis’s population of 40,000 was almost double that of Nashville and Atlanta, ranking it second only to New Orleans as the largest city in the South.[22] The population of Memphis continued to grow after 1870, even when the panic of 1873 hit the US, particularly the South, very hard. The panic of 1873 allowed Memphis’s underclasses to swell amidst the poverty and hardship the panic wrought, giving further credence to Memphis being a rough, shiftless city. Also, Memphis had a reputation for being a dirty city leading up to outbreak in 1878. Two yellow fever epidemics, cholera and malaria had given Memphis a reputation as a sickly city and a filthy one. It was unheard of for a city with a population as large as the one in Memphis to have no waterworks—the city still relied entirely on the river and rain cisterns to collect water, and there was no way to remove sewage.[22] The combination of a swelling population, especially of lower and working classes, and the abysmal health and sanitary conditions of Memphis made the city ripe for a serious epidemic. The first case to go on record for the public was when Mrs. Kate Bionda, an owner of the Italian snack house, died of the fever on August 13.[22] Hers was officially reported by the Board of Health, on August 14, as the first case of yellow fever in the city.[22] A massive panic ensued. The same trains and steamboats that brought thousands into Memphis now carried away over 25,000 Memphians, more than half of the population, in a span of five days.[22] On August 23, the Board of Health finally declared a yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, and the city collapsed, hemorrhaging its population. In July of that year, the city boasted a population of 47,000. By September, 19,000 remained and 17,000 of them had yellow fever.[22] The only people left in the city were the lower classes, like the German and Irish immigrant workers, and African American Americans. Neither of these two groups had the capacity to flee the city like the middle and upper class whites of Memphis, and thus they were subjected to a city of death. Immediately following the Board of Health’s declaration, a Citizen’s Relief Committee was formed by Charles G. Fisher, and proceeded to organize the city into refugee camps. The committee’s main priority was separating the poor from the city and isolating them into refugee camps.[22] Also, the Howard Association, formed specifically for yellow fever epidemics in New Orleans and Memphis, organized nurses and doctors within Memphis and throughout the country in response to the outbreak.[23] They stayed at the Peabody Hotel, the only hotel to keep its doors open during the epidemic (Crosby 60), and from there were assigned to their respective infected districts. Physicians of the epidemic reported seeing as many as 100 to 150 patients daily.[22] The sisters of St. Mary’s Hospital played an important role during the epidemic caring for the lower classes. Already home to a girl’s school and church orphanage, the sisters of St. Mary’s also sought to provide care for the Canfield Asylum, a home for black children. Each day, the sisters alternated caring for the orphans at St. Mary’s, delivering children to the Canfield Asylum and taking soup and medicine on house calls to patients.[22] At long last, on October 28, a killing frost fell, and a message was sent to Memphians scattered all over the country to come home. Though yellow fever cases would continue to appear in the pages of Elmwood Cemetery’s burial record as late as February 29, the epidemic itself seemed quieted.[22] The Board of Health declared the epidemic, which caused over 20,000 deaths and financial losses of nearly $200 million, at an end.[24] On November 27, a general citizen’s meeting was called at the Greenlaw Opera House to offer thanks to those who had stayed behind to serve and die. Over the next year property tax revenues collapsed, and the city could not make payments on its municipal debts. As a result of this crisis, Memphis temporarily lost its city charter and was reclassified by the state legislature as a Taxing District from 1878–1893.[23] Despite the unfortunately losing its charter and 75% of its population, a new era of sanitation arose in Memphis. A new municipal government in 1879 helped form the first regional health organization and during the 1880s led the nation in sanitary reform and improvements.[24] Perhaps the most significant effect the yellow fever had on Memphis was its demographic changes. Nearly all of Memphis’s upper and middle classes vanished, depriving the city of its general leadership and class structure that dictated everyday life similar to other large Southern Cities like New Orleans, Charleston, and Atlanta. This put Memphis in a unique position, one in which poorer whites and blacks fundamentally made up the city and played the greatest role in reestablishing the city. The epidemic had made Memphis a less cosmopolitan place, with an economy that serviced the cotton trade and a population drawn increasingly from poor white and black southerners.[25] The 1890 election was strongly contested, resulting in opponents of the D. P. Haddenfaction working to deprive them of votes by disenfranchising blacks. The state had enacted several laws, including the requirement of poll taxes, that served to disenfranchisemany blacks. Although political party factions in the future sometimes paid poll taxes to enable blacks to vote, African Americans lost their last positions on the city council in this election and were forced out of the police force. (They did not recover the ability to exercise the franchise until after passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s.) Historian Lynette Boney Wrenn suggests the heightened political hostility of the Democratic contest and related social tensions contributed to a white mob lynching three black grocers in Memphis 1892.[26] Journalist Ida B. Wells of Memphis investigated the lynchings, as one of the men killed was a friend of hers. She demonstrated that these and other lynchings were more often due to economic and social competition than any criminal offenses by black men. Her findings were so controversial and aroused so much anger that she was forced to moved away from the city. She continued to investigate and publish the abuses of lynching.[27] Businessmen were eager to increase city population after the losses of 1878-79, and supported annexation of new areas to the city; this was passed in 1890 before the census. The annexation measure was finally approved by the state legislature through a compromise achieved with real estate magnates, and the area annexed was slightly smaller than first proposed.[28] In 1893 the city was rechartered with home rule, which restored its ability to enact taxes, although the state legislature established a cap rate.[29] Although commission government was retained and enlarged to five commissioners, Democratic politicians regained control from the business elite. The commission form of government was believed effective in getting things done, but it reduced representation of the city's full population.[30] 20th centuryEdit Cotton merchants on Union Avenue (1937) In terms of its economy, Memphis developed as the world's largest spot cotton market and the world's largest hardwood lumber market, both commodity products of the Mississippi Delta. Into the 1950s, it was the world's largest mule market.[31] Attracting workers from rural areas as well as new immigrants, from 1900 to 1950 the city increased nearly fourfold in population, from 102,350 to 396,000 residents.[32] From the 1910s to the 1950s, Memphis was a place of machine politics under the direction of E. H. "Boss" Crump. He gained a state law in 1911 to establish a small commission to manage the city. The city retained a form of commission government until 1967 and patronage flourished under Crump. "This centralization of political power in a small commission aided the efficient transaction of municipal business, but the public policies that resulted from it tended to benefit upper-class Memphians while neglecting the less affluent residents and neighborhoods."[33] The city installed a revolutionary sewer system and upgraded sanitation and drainage to prevent another epidemic. Pure water from an artesian well was discovered in the 1880s, securing the city's water supply. The commissioners developed an extensive network of parks and public works as part of the national City Beautiful movement, but did not encourage heavy industry, which might have provided substantial employment for the working-class population. The lack of representation in city government resulted in the poor and minorities being underrepresented. The majority controlled the election of all the at-large positions.[33] Memphis did not become a home rule city until 1963, although the state legislature had amended the constitution in 1953 to provide home rule for cities and counties. Before that, the city had to get state bills approved in order to change its charter and for other policies and programs. Since 1963, it can change the charter by popular approval of the electorate.[34] During the 1960s, the city was at the center of civil rights issues, as its large African-American population had been affected by state segregation practices anddisenfranchisement in the early 20th century. African-American residents drew from the civil rights movement to improve their lives. In 1968 a city sanitation workers' strike began for living wages and better working conditions; the workers were overwhelmingly African American. They marched to gain public awareness and support for their plight: the danger of their work, and the struggles to support families with their low pay. Their drive for better pay had been met with resistance by the city government. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, known for his leadership in the non-violent movement, came to lend his support to the workers' cause. He stayed at the Lorraine Motel in the city, where he was assassinated by a sniper on April 4, 1968, the day after giving his prophetic I've Been to the Mountaintop speech at theMason Temple. Grief-stricken and enraged after learning of King's murder, many African Americans in the city rioted, looting and destroying businesses and other facilities, some by arson. The governor ordered Tennessee National Guardsmen into the city within hours, where small, roving bands of rioters continued to be active.[35] Fearing the violence, more of the middle-class began to leave the city for the suburbs. In 1970, the Census Bureau reported Memphis' population as 60.8% white and 38.9% black.[36] Suburbanization was attracting wealthier residents to newer housing outside the city. After the riots and court-ordered busing in 1973 to achieve desegregation of public schools, "about 40,000 of the system’s 71,000 white students abandon[ed] the system in four years."[37] The city now has a majority-black population; the larger metropolitan area is narrowly majority white. Memphis is well known for its cultural contributions to the identity of the American South. Many renowned musicians grew up in and around Memphis and moved to Chicago and other areas from the Mississippi Delta, carrying their music with them to influence other cities and listeners over radio airwaves.[38] These included such musical greats as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, W. C. Handy, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones, Eric Gales, Al Green, Alex Chilton, Justin Timberlake, Three 6 Mafia, the Sylvers, Jay Reatard, Zach Myers, and many others. Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis.

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