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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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“There Will Be No Discrimination”

“There Will Be No Discrimination”

Race, Power, and the Memphis Flood of 1937

(p.86) “There Will Be No Discrimination”
An Unseen Light

David Welky

University Press of Kentucky

The 1937 flood of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers was one of the highest and most destructive on record. It affected millions of lives, devastated thousands of towns, and killed hundreds of people. The Bluff City, as its name suggests, escaped the worst of the deluge. Although waters did inundate the north and south ends of town, it became a massive refugee center that crammed tens of thousands of flood victims into space that should have accommodated hundreds. Black Memphis felt the flood in racially specific ways. Police trolled Beale Street looking for able-bodied men to put to work on levees. Area landlords driven from nearby farmlands jammed their sharecroppers into substandard housing, lest they escape their punitive labor contracts. As this essay shows, when the city broke down, the fate of local African Americans became a political tool in the hands of Mayor Watkins Overton and “Boss” E. H. Crump.

Keywords:   Memphis, 1937 flood, Beale Street, Bluff City, E. H. Crump

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