An Unseen Light: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee, USA


University Press of Kentucky

Release Date

Wednesday, December 8, 2021


In An Unseen Light: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee, eminent and rising scholars present a multidisciplinary examination of African American activism in Memphis from the dawn of emancipation to the twenty-first century. Together, they investigate episodes such as the 1940 “Reign of Terror” when black Memphians experienced a prolonged campaign of harassment, mass arrests, and violence at the hands of police.

They also examine topics including the relationship between the labor and civil rights movements, the fight for economic advancement in black communities, and the impact of music on the city’s culture. Covering subjects as diverse as politics, sports, music, activism, and religion, An Unseen Light illuminates Memphis’s place in the long history of the struggle for African American freedom and human dignity.

Praise for An Unseen Light

“From the aftermath of the post–Civil War race massacre to continuous violence, murder, and bitter confrontations into the twenty-first century, contributors illuminate An Unseen Light on those black Memphians forging lives, nonetheless.

Scholars intellectually and personally invested in the city bring an unequivocal depth of understanding about place and belonging that textures the pages with life, adding more layers to underscore how black lives have mattered in the historical grassroots building of the nation. This is thoughtful and beautiful work.” —Françoise N. Hamlin, author of 
Crossroads at Clarksdale: The Black Freedom Struggle in the Mississippi Delta after World War II

About the Editors

Aram Goudsouzian is Bizot Family Professor of History at the University of Memphis. His books include Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, IconKing of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution, and Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear.

Charles W. McKinney Jr. is the Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and associate professor of history at Rhodes College. A scholar of the Black Freedom Struggle, he is the author of Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina. 

For additional information, physical review copies, and interview requests:
Jackie Wilson

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