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An Unseen LightBlack Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee$
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Aram Goudsouzian and Charles W. McKinney Jr.

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813175515

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813175515.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
An Unseen Light
Author(s):

Aram Goudsouzian

Charles W. McKinney Jr.

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813175515.003.0001

The introduction opens with Richard Wright, adrift and morose amidst the vagaries of Jim Crow Memphis, and pans back to examine the political and social circumstances of the segregated city, from blues music on Beale Street to the vice trade to the Crump machine. It later skips to Martin Luther King, delivering his majestic “Mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple on the eve of his assassination, proclaiming that “something is happening in Memphis,” rallying the masses for an unprecedented political mobilization. But the introduction asks us to consider “unseen lights”—the people, movements, and narratives that sustained a longer, broader movement for black freedom in Memphis. The city’s African American history is more than blues music and Martin Luther King, though it is those things, too. As the introduction argues, African American politics and culture in Memphis are only now beginning to gain the sustained attention of a body of scholars, as reflected in this landmark collection of essays.

Keywords:   Memphis, Jim Crow, Beale Street, Martin Luther King, Richard Wright

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