Online Forum: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee

October 8-12, 2018

Black Perspectives, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting a week-long online forum based on Aram Goudsouzian and Charles W. McKinney‘s edited volume An Unseen Light: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee (University Press of Kentucky, 2018)In An Unseen Light, eminent and rising scholars offer a multidisciplinary examination of Memphis’s role in African American history during the twentieth 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.

The forum begins on Monday, October 8, 2018 and concludes on Friday, October 12, 2018. During the week of the online forum, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 5:30AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHS) on Twitter; like AAIHS on Facebook; or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the forum.


Aram Goudsouzian is the chair of the Department of History at the University of Memphis. He earned his PhD from Purdue University and his BA from Colby College. He teaches courses on modern American history, with a particular focus on race, politics, and culture. His book Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014) won the McLemore Book Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society. He is also the author of two biographies of significant popular culture figures during the civil rights era: King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution (University of California Press, 2010); and Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon (University of North Carolina Press, 2004). He wrote another short book called The Hurricane of 1938 (Commonwealth Editions, 2004) about the costliest natural disaster in American history until that time, and he has written articles in journals such as The Journal of American StudiesStudy the SouthJournal of the Historical Society, and American Studies. He is a regular contributor to Chapter 16, the online book review journal of Humanities Tennessee, and a frequent book reviewer for the Washington Post. He is also the author of Men and the Moment: The Election of 1968 and the Rise of Partisan Politics in America, forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press.

Charles W. McKinney is the Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and an Associate Professor of History at Rhodes College. His areas of interest include the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, with particular interest in the formation of local Black freedom struggles. He is the author of Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina (University Press of America, 2010), which explores the slow, deliberate building of a movement in a rural community in the eastern-central portion of the state. Additionally, he has written a number of articles focusing on school desegregation, electoral politics and the central role of women in the construction of freedom movements. His latest book, co-edited with Aram Goudsouzian, is An Unseen Light: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee, an exploration of the Black freedom struggle from Reconstruction to the beginning of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. His next project, tentatively titled Losing the Party of Lincoln: George Washington Lee and the Struggle for the Soul of the Republican Party, explores the life and career of George Washington Lee, an African American Republican operative and civil rights activist who lived in Memphis in the middle of the twentieth century. Lee was a staunch supporter of civil rights, and fought against the rightward drift of the party, a drift greatly facilitated by the ascension of Barry Goldwater in the early 1960s. Follow him on Twitter @KMT188.


Beverly Greene Bond is an Associate Professor of History and former director of the College of Arts and Sciences’ (CAS) African and African American Studies program.  Her academic and research interests reflect her roots in Memphis, Tennessee.  She has written on nineteenth century African-American enslaved, free and freed women in Tennessee, the development of racially separate school systems in urban and rural Memphis and Shelby County, and on prominent Black Memphians Sara Roberta Church and Reverend L. O. Taylor.  She is particularly interested in the ways in which African American women negotiated the boundaries of race, class and gender in the nineteenth century urban South. She is the author of several books, including Memphis in Black and White (Arcadia Publishing, 2003)Images of America: Beale Street (Arcadia Publishing, 2006); and Tennessee Women: Their Lives and Times, Volumes I and II (University of Georgia Press). She is a past president of the Southern Association for Women Historians.

Shirletta Kinchen is an Associate Professor of Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville. Her research focuses on the intersections of Black Power, local grassroots activism, Black student and campus activism, and Black youth politics during the civil rights and Black Power movements. She is the author of Black Power in the Bluff City: African American Youth and Student Activism in Memphis, 1965-1975. In Black Power in the Bluff City, Kinchen helps redress that imbalance by examining how young Memphis activists, like Coby Smith and Charles Cabbage, dissatisfied by the pace of progress in a city emerging from the Jim Crow era, embraced Black Power ideology to confront such challenges as gross disparities in housing, education, and employment as well as police brutality and harassment. She received her M.A. in African American history from Florida A&M University and her Ph.D. in African American history from the University of Memphis. Follow her on Twitter @DoctahKay.

Charles L. Hughes is the Director of the Lynne & Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College, where he teaches courses in Africana Studies, History and Urban Studies. His acclaimed first book, Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South, was released in 2015 by the University of North Carolina Press. It was named one of the Best Music Books of 2015 by Rolling Stone and Paste Magazine. He has published essays and given numerous talks in front of a range of audiences, including featured engagements at the Center for Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives. He is currently working on a book about the history of African-Americans and professional wrestling in the United States. Follow him on Twitter @CharlesLHughes2.

Anthony C. Siracusa writes about religion, race, and politics in the Black Freedom Movement. His book project, The World as It Should Be: Nonviolence and the Black Freedom Movement, 1916–1960, suggests that nonviolence became a pivotal expression of the freedom to be and to flourish in a nation long dedicated to the violent repression of Black life. His work has appeared in edited volumes from the University of Kentucky Press, the University of Mississippi Press, and Palgrave MacMillan Publishing. He has also published articles in the Journal of Civil and Human Rights and the West Tennessee Historical Society Papers.  A forthcoming chapter entitled “‘Give Light and the People will Find a Way:’ Democratic Deliberation, The Black Freedom Movement, and Public Achievement at Colorado College,” will be published in Discussing Democracy: A Primer on Dialogue and Deliberation in Higher Education (Stylus Publishers). Dr. Siracusa completed his undergraduate work at Rhodes College in Memphis and his doctoral studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He currently serves as the Engaged Learning Specialist at Colorado College. Follow him on Twitter @anthonysiracusa.

Darius J. Young is as an Associate Professor of History at Florida A&M University (FAMU), where he teaches courses on African American History, the Jim Crow South, African American Leadership and Racial Violence. His research focuses on Black political movements during the twentieth century. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Memphis, and B.S. in African American Studies and M.A.S.S. in History from Florida A&M University. Dr. Young is the author of Robert R. Church Jr. and the African American Political Struggle, which is scheduled to be published in March 2019 by the University Press of Florida. He is currently writing a book on Black power activist Albert Cleage Jr. and his contribution to the Black political movements in Detroit, Michigan during the 1960s and 1970s. Follow him on Twitter @dariusjyoung.

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