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Battling the Plantation MentalityMemphis and the Black Freedom Struggle$
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Laurie B. Green

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780807831069

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807888872_green

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Memphis before World War II: Migrants, Mushroom Strikes, and the Reign of Terror

Memphis before World War II: Migrants, Mushroom Strikes, and the Reign of Terror

(p.15) 1 Memphis before World War II: Migrants, Mushroom Strikes, and the Reign of Terror
Battling the Plantation Mentality

Laurie B. Green

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the political situation in Memphis prior to World War II, focusing on the “reign of terror” launched by the political machine of Edward Hull Crump, who served as city mayor from 1909 to 1916. The Crump machine controlled local elections, intervened in labor conflicts and subdued labor activism, censored Hollywood movies, and exerted social control over incoming migrants. The chapter first traces Memphis's roots in the plantation economy and assesses the impact of the New Deal on agriculture and industry. It then explores the historical tensions over race and politics in the Jim Crow era involving African Americans, and how migrants engaged in politics and launched “mushroom strikes” in sweatshops that prompted repression by the Crump machine. The chapter also discusses the effects of the “reign of terror” on Memphis's black leaders, especially with respect to their relations to the Crump machine and to their constituencies.

Keywords:   reign of terror, Edward Hull Crump, Crump machine, migrants, plantation economy, New Deal, politics, African Americans, mushroom strikes, Memphis

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