Memphis

A gracious antebellum city of stern-wheelers and cotton money; a restless, violent city with a hot grain of genius at its heart; a city of calamity, desolation, and rebirth; a city that changed the way the whole world hears music. It’s all the same city, and it is this year’s Great American Place. Thomas Childers answers a summons to Memphis, Tennessee.

Bales of cotton no longer accumulate along the riverbank, but a small fleet of stern-wheelers still serves the Memphis waterfront.
 

When the phone rang and I heard the familiar voice of an old family friend inviting me to visit him in his hometown of Memphis, I was intrigued.

 

Caution: I Brake For History

A BOLD NEW KIND OF COLLEGE COURSE BRINGS the student directly to the past, nonstop, overnight, in squalor and glory, for weeks on end

 

O Public Road … you express me better than I can express myself. ” I first read Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” in Leaves of Grass , as an Ohio schoolboy. The great democratic chant struck me hard, a lightning bolt of simple, authoritative words proclaiming that only in motion do people have the chance to turn dreams into reality. Even as a fourteen-yearold I already suspected this. Read more »

Epidemic

A disease that no one understood laid waste a major American city. Five thousand died in two months, and Memphis was never the same again.

In 1878, not long after Reconstruction ended, Memphis appeared likely to emerge from the ashes of Confederate defeat as one of the regal cities of the New South. Her population had doubled during the 1860s in spite of war and occupation, and by 1878 it had reached nearly 48,000. She lay almost midway between New Orleans and St. Louis and had rail and river connections to all the major cities and growing markets of the South.Read more »