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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.

Aram Goudsouzian is Bizot Family Professor of History at the University of Memphis. His books include Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon, King 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.



Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky




Lexington, KY


civil rights movement; racial equality; racism; sanitation strike; west tennessee; beale street; black power; church; naacp; mlk; martin luther king jr; black lives matter; george washington lee; lemoyne owen college; black freedom movement


Civil Rights and Discrimination

An Unseen Light
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