From Slavery to Bravery – History of Memphis

The world is full of stories, and not all stories are delightful to your ears. Memphisa city in Tennessee, has a history worth knowing. It is an inspiration for people, who think failure is a part of their life.

This city has been through the worst and the best of mankind. The story of Memphis is the life of people who were fearless to fight for a brighter future, for themselves and others.

The history of Memphis goes back to 1500 A.D. after the temple mounds of the Mississippian culture were constructed. The builders of these mounds are considered to be the ancestors of the Tunica tribe.

Chickasaw Bluff – the land of opportunities

Memphis is a city primarily on the Chickasaw bluff where the Chickasaw Native Americans lived and hunted. This was from the 1500s until the Chickasaw treaty was signed in 1818. In the 16th Century, the European Colonists arrived in the area.

The land on this bluff protected from Mississippi floods and gave a shelf of sandstone, which was perfect for the boat landing. The land created adequate business opportunities and Memphis’s business was quite a success.

 Industrialization and Bankruptcy 

In 1818, a treaty was signed by Andrew Jackson, the U.S. Commissioner, which led to the opening of West Tennessee for settlement. On May 22, 1819, the city was founded and jointly owned by three partners, Overton, Jackson, and Winchester.

The cotton industry boosted its economy, which relied on the labor of slaves. This is where slavery started and this continued until the civil war ended. In 1861, Memphis became the center of Confederate War preparations. After the battle of Memphis on 6th June 1862, federal troops occupied the city.

Robert Church, Sr., a businessman, found the first African American owned bank. He also created a cultural epicenter for African Americans. The population of the city increased, but everything crashed when the yellow fever epidemic started. The city was bankrupt and the taxes were high. Till the 20th century, the city experienced only small gains in the economic status.

 The Civil Rights Movement

Due to the deaths of two sanitation workers, the others went on strike to protest the discrimination and working conditions. The strike was supported by the African American community and the protest lasted for quite a long time. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader joined the protests.

The assassination of the civil rights leader led to riots. The Mayor of Memphis, Henry Leob, finally met the protesters and reached a settlement and the three-month-long strike ended on 16th April 1968.

Music and Modernization

The Beale Street music became the sound of Memphis when W.C Handy wrote his first song and published it in America. In 1912, many other people started their careers as musicians and recorders and till the 1960s many songs from Memphis became the jam for people.

The city began to modernize itself through ideas and innovation. The city which fought for its civil rights now has a National Civil Rights Museum.

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