Beginning in 1949, while Elvis Presley and Sun Records were still virtually unknown--and two full years before Alan Freed famously "discovered" rock 'n' roll--Dewey Phillips brought the budding new music to the Memphis airwaves by playing Howlin' Wolf, B. B. King, and Muddy Waters on his nightly radio show Red, Hot and Blue. The mid-South's most popular white deejay, "Daddy-O-Dewey" soon became part of rock 'n' roll history for being the first major disc jockey to play Elvis Presley and, subsequently, to conduct the first live, on-air interview with the singer.
Louis Cantor illuminates Phillips's role in turning a huge white audience on to previously forbidden race music. Phillips's zeal for rhythm and blues legitimized the sound and set the stage for both Elvis's subsequent success and the rock 'n' roll revolution of the 1950s. Using personal interviews, documentary sources, and oral history collections, Cantor presents a personal view of the disc jockey while restoring Phillips's place as an essential figure in rock 'n' roll history.
From Boss Crump to King Willie offers an in-depth look at the vital role that race played in the political evolution of Memphis, from the rise of longtime political boss Edward Hull Crump to the election of Dr. Willie Herenton as the city’s first black mayor. Filled with vivid details on the workings of municipal politics, this accessible account by veteran journalist Otis Sanford explores the nearly century-long struggle by African Americans in Memphis to secure recognition from local leaders and gain a viable voice in the city’s affairs.
Sanford explains how, in 1909, Crump won his first election as mayor without black support but then immediately sought to woo and keep the black vote in order to maintain his political machine for the next two generations. The African American community overwhelmingly supported the Crump organization because he at least listened and responded to some of
their concerns, while other white leaders completely ignored them. The book probes Crump’s hot-and-cold relationship with local newspaper editors, some of whom castigated his machine politics, and examines the press’s influence on the political and civic life of the city. It also shows how, amid longstanding racism and poverty in Memphis, the black community nevertheless produced many prominent business, religious, and political leaders, most of whom had an amicable relationship with “Boss” Crump.
The book goes on to explore the political vacuum that ensued after Crump’s death in 1954, and the factors that led to African Americans becoming the majority voting population in the city following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968. Through the civil rights movement and beyond, black Memphians kept up their fight for recognition and inclusion.
That fight culminated in the election of Dr. Herenton, a well-educated native son who proved to be the right man at the right time to make racial and political history in the city. Additionally, the book compares the racial climate in Memphis with that in other southern cities during
the height of the civil rights movement.
OTIS SANFORD holds the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic/Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis. He also serves as the political commentator for WREG-TV in Memphis. A former managing editor and current political columnist at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, he also worked for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, the Pittsburgh Press, and the Detroit Free Press. He was inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame in 2014.
Maxine Smith's Unwilling Pupils is the authorized biography of Maxine Atkins Smith. As such it tells the story of the civil rights movement in Memphis from Smith's viewpoint. Primarily based on newspaper accounts from the 1960s and 1970s and on Smith's papers housed at the Memphis Public Library, the book also draws from a rich source of interviews conducted by the coauthors and others.
This book presents a well-balanced historical background of the civil rights era even while serving as a tribute to Maxine Smith and her work. A panoramic view of Maxine's life, Maxine Smith's Unwilling Pupils, presents one woman's struggle as a prism for understanding the human dimensions of the fight for equality.
The biography portrays Smith's lifelong focus on education as she tried to enlighten both blacks and whites about equality and the inalienable rights of all races. Along the way she became the face of the civil rights movement in Memphis during a critical time in the movement's history. Maxine's unwilling pupils often hated her for her outspoken and tenacious advocacy for those rights; her followers loved her for her unwavering commitment to ensure the rights of African Americans.
Smith's selfless struggles as chronicled in this biography will leave no doubt that her influence on the progress of civil rights in Memphis was profound. Moreover, her example of tireless commitment should inspire the efforts of new generations of equal rights activists to come.
Sherry L. Hoppe is president of Austin Peay State University. She has coedited a number of volumes with Bruce W. Speck in the New Directions for Teaching and Learning series. She is coeditor, with Dr. Speck, of Service-Learning: History, Theory, and Issues.
Bruce W. Speck is provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Austin Peay State University. He is the co-author, with Jordy Rocheleau, of Rights and Wrongs in the College Classroom: Ethical Issues in Postsecondary Teaching. He has written numerous articles and contributed to edited volumes.
Drawing on national, state, and local data, the Urban Child Institute partnered with RAND to explore the social and emotional well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn. The book highlights the importance of factors in the home, child care setting, and community that contribute to social and emotional development.
In Opportunity Lost, Marcus D. Pohlmann examines the troubling issue of why Memphis city school students are underperforming at alarming rates. His provocative interdisciplinary analysis, combining both history and social science, examines the events before and after desegregation, compares a city school to an affluent suburban school to pinpoint imbalances, and offers critical assessments of various educational reforms.
Employing a rich trove of data to demonstrate the realities of racial and economic inequality, Pohlmann underscores the difficulties that plague the urban schools and their students-problems that persist despite the fact that the city schools often have more resource advantages than the county schools: better student-to-teacher ratios, more teachers with advanced degrees, and even greater spending on each student. Pohlmann demonstrates that post-industrial economic shifts and continuing racial exclusion have resulted in a predominance of low-income students at these schools. This economic disadvantage has had a lasting impact on performance among students at all grade levels and has not been reversed simply by increasing resources.
In addition to his analysis of the problems, Pohlmann lays out educational reforms that run the gamut from early intervention and parental involvement to increasing class size and teacher compensation, improving time utilization, and more. Pohlmann's illuminating and original study has wide application for a problem that bedevils inner-city children everywhere and prevents the promise of equality from reaching all of our nation's citizens.
Marcus D. Pohlmann is professor of political science at Rhodes College. He is the author of Governing the Postindustrial City; coauthor, with Michael P. Kirby, of Racial Politics at the Crossroads: Memphis Elects W. W. Herenton; and editor of the six-volume African American Political Thought.
A tragic landmark in the civil rights movement, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis is best known for what occurred there on April 4, 1968. As he stood on the balcony of Room 306, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, ending a golden age of nonviolent resistance, and sparking riots in more than one hundred cities. Formerly a seedy, segregated motel, and prior to that a brothel, the motel quickly achieved the status of national shrine. The motel attracts a variety of pilgrims—white politicians seeking photo ops, aging civil rights leaders, New Age musicians, and visitors to its current incarnation, the National Civil Rights Museum. A moving and emotional account that comprises a panorama of voices, Room 306 is an important oral history unlike any other.
On a winter day in 1892, in the broad daylight of downtown Memphis, Tennessee, a middle class woman named Alice Mitchell slashed the throat of her lover, Freda Ward, killing her instantly. Local, national, and international newspapers, medical and scientific publications, and popular fiction writers all clamored to cover the ensuing “girl lovers” murder trial. Lisa Duggan locates in this sensationalized event the emergence of the lesbian in U.S. mass culture and shows how newly “modern” notions of normality and morality that arose from such cases still haunt and distort lesbian and gay politics to the present day. Situating this story alongside simultaneously circulating lynching narratives (and its resistant versions, such as those of Memphis antilynching activist Ida B. Wells) Duggan reveals how stories of sex and violence were crucial to the development of American modernity. While careful to point out the differences between the public reigns of terror that led to many lynchings and the rarer instances of the murder of one woman by another privately motivated woman, Duggan asserts that dominant versions of both sets of stories contributed to the marginalization of African Americans and women while solidifying a distinctly white, male, heterosexual form of American citizenship. Having explored the role of turn-of-the-century print media—and in particular their tendency toward sensationalism—Duggan moves next to a review of sexology literature and to novels, most notably Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. Sapphic Slashers concludes with two appendices, one of which presents a detailed summary of Ward’s murder, the trial, and Mitchell’s eventual institutionalization. The other presents transcriptions of letters exchanged between the two women prior to the crime. Combining cultural history, feminist and queer theory, narrative analysis, and compelling storytelling, Sapphic Slashers provides the first history of the emergence of the lesbian in twentieth-century mass culture.
Widely praised upon publication and now considered a classic study, Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights chronicles the southern industrial union movement from the Great Depression to the Cold War, a history that created the context for the sanitation workers' strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis in April 1968. Michael K. Honey documents the dramatic labor battles and sometimes heroic activities of workers and organizers that helped to set the stage for segregation's demise.
Winner of the Charles S. Sydnor Award, given by the Southern Historical Association, 1994. Winner of the James A. Rawley Prize given by the Organization of American Historians, 1994. Winner of the Herbert G. Gutman Award for an outstanding book in American social history.