Gawker is on a quest to determine the most racist city in America. Your contributions are vital to the cause. Please add your insights in the discussion system below. Or if you'd like to nominate another city please send an email here. Today... Memphis.
City: Memphis, TN
Ethnic Breakdown: 29% White, 63% Black, 2% Asian, 7% Latino (NOTE: Percentages don't add up due to people marking themselves down as belonging to more than one race)
History of Racism: See below.
Hear it from Memphisians!
I can't believe a lot of people haven't voted Memphis to be the most racist city. My husband and I traveled to Nashville on motor cycles two years ago. We were part of a group of three couples. We were welcomed in Nashville with open arms. Our second stop was Memphis and except for visiting Elvis's mansion we were barely paid any attention. At the hotel desk when we checked in, two girls behind the desk barely looked at us and were not friendly at all. Later in the day (after we went to use the swimming pool) we asked a different girl at the desk for a wine bottle opener and she would not even acknowledge us. Our group took a ride on a street car behind our hotel the next evening (in regular casual dress) and when we asked the driver of the train about local points of interest he wouldn't answer. Needless to say, we won't travel there again, ever!!!!!
I. Prior to the civil war, Memphis was one of the largest slave trade centers in the US, with more than 1/4 of the city's population comprising of slaves.
II. Nathan Bedford Forrest Lived here most of his life, making a fortune in the slave trade in Memphis. He was responsible for the killing of over 600 black union and white southern unionist soldiers during the war. He also because a grand wizard of the KKK after the war. We have a city park commemorating him with a huge statue of him.
III. In May of 1866, there was a riot after a white police officer got into a fight with some black men who were discharged union troops. Forty-six blacks were dead and 285 had been victimized in one way or another. However, no arrests were ever made for murder, rape, theft, or arson, although many of the rioters were well known to the victims who later identified them to a congressional committee.
IV. In the 1890's during the population rebound after the yellow fever epidemic, control of the city was taken by white migrants moving to Memphis from outlying rural areas. The white migrants reinforced the city's devotion to the ‘lost cause'…In seeking to keep alive the ‘noble traditions of bygone days,' white Southerners embraced a complex credo, which included an insistence on black inferiority.
As this new generation of whites assumed power in Memphis, they took measures to control the African American population and to ensure white supremacy. By 1905, blacks were segregated on the city's streetcars and were not allowed to visit the city's parks. At the turn of the twentieth century, "Memphis presented a strange paradox - a city modern in physical aspect but rural in prejudice, and rural in habit."
V. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.
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