Crises in Cotton’s Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Yellow Fever in Late Nineteenth-Century Memphis, Tennessee

Lecture Description

This lecture explores the tension between black and white labor in Memphis between 1865 and 1900. The analysis pivots around three things: the riot of 1866 led by Irish working class men (and Irish police) against the freed people of Memphis; the tenuous coalition of black and Irish voters in the 1870s which elected an Irish mayor; and the ability of the white cotton elite to seize control of city government after the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878. The cotton elite success in defeating the unusual alliance between African Americans and Irish immigrants preceded formal disfranchisement statutes in Tennessee. In fact, for a decade before disfranchisement, African Americans served as a crucial element of the cotton elite’s political machine.


Labor and Working Class Race

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