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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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“If the March Cannot Be Here, Then Where?”

“If the March Cannot Be Here, Then Where?”

Memphis and the Meredith March

(p.254) “If the March Cannot Be Here, Then Where?”
An Unseen Light

Aram Goudsouzian

University Press of Kentucky

This essay examines the role of Memphis in the Meredith March against Fear, a demonstration for black freedom that moved through Mississippi in June 1966. James Meredith began his journey from Memphis and was shot by Aubrey Norvell, who hailed from a suburb of the city. In the aftermath of the shooting, Memphis hosted important events that not only determined the character and success of the march but also influenced the course of the black freedom struggle. The titans of the civil rights movement orated from the pulpits of Memphis churches and engaged in contentious debates in the rooms of the Lorraine Motel. Even as the march continued south through Mississippi, its headquarters remained at Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, which achieved James Lawson’s vision of an activist church driven by grassroots pressure and militant nonviolence. The city’s whites exhibited both hostility and accommodation toward black protesters, demonstrating both connections to and distinctions from the racial patterns of Mississippi. For the Memphis branch of the NAACP, the demonstration presented an opportunity to assert its historic strength, even as the march highlighted the complicated dynamics between local branches and the national office.

Keywords:   Memphis, James Meredith, Aubrey Norvell, March against Fear, Centenary Methodist Church, Lorraine Motel

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