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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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“We’ll Have No Race Trouble Here”

“We’ll Have No Race Trouble Here”

Racial Politics and Memphis’s Reign of Terror

(p.130) “We’ll Have No Race Trouble Here”
An Unseen Light

Jason Jordan

University Press of Kentucky

In the fall of 1940 black Memphians experienced a prolonged campaign of harassment, mass arrests, and violence at the hands of Memphis police known as the “Reign of Terror.” These actions were carried out under the direction of local political boss E. H. Crump as more black Memphians, tiring of Crump’s iron-fisted rule, backed candidates that promised to move away from the “plantation mentality” of Crump’s regime. While systematically suppressing local black political organizing, Crump offered public praise, token benefits, and a respite from legal action to black community leaders who were willing to rebuke other “agitators” within the black population. As a result, some blacks capitulated to Crump’s demands with the hopes of earning some small amount of favor, while others struggled to resist the might of the Crump machine. This essay argues that this particular moment in Memphis history made concrete a deep intraracial divide within its black activist community, delaying by decades any real chance to change the city’s racial status quo.

Keywords:   Memphis, Reign of Terror, E. H. Crump, plantation mentality, black activism

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