The onset of World War I came as a surprise to many Mid-Southerners, yet, like much of the rest of the nation, Memphians joined the war effort with unprecedented determination. When the armed forces set up recruiting stations at the Tri-State Fair, able-bodied men lined up to enlist.
Citizens organized preparedness parades, and Memphis homemakers rallied to raise awareness about wartime rationing. Local mothers attended demonstrations on how to plan a menu for “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheat-Less Wednesdays.”
Jane Wright was a social pioneer in the early years of Memphis. Jane and her twin sister Eliza were born in Memphis in 1835 to Benjamin Wright, a member of a wealthy Quaker family of abolitionists. Their mother, Ann, was Benjamin Wright’s Afro-Indian housekeeper.
He took his two daughters and their mother to Cario, IL, to seek their manumission, to ensure their freedom. From Illinois, the Wright’s came back to Memphis where Benjamin owned a large plantation and a general store.
Twelve years after the end of the American Revolution the fledgling nation had a competitor for ownership of the bluff where Memphis now stands.
On June 20, 1795 a Spanish contingent led by Don Manuel Gayoso, secured a treaty from the Chickasaw nation, ceding the bluff and surrounding lands to Spain “forever.”
The Spanish quickly erected a log fort near the area of Front and Autumn Streets in preparation for a possible attack by the French, their old European rival. The hastily built stronghold was named Fort San Fernando De Las Barrancas (also known as Fort des Ecore) .
Many Americans are familiar with the name of Alvin Cullum York because of the 1941 film Sergeant York. What you may not know, however, is that his American hero was a native son of Tennessee, born in a log cabin in Pall Mall.
As a young man, York was a member of the Church of Christ. He initially declared himself a conscientious objector at the outbreak of World War I, but his petition was denied. The thirty-year old York found himself assigned to the 82nd division on the Western Front.
Blair T. Hunt (1888-1978) is a name every Memphian should know. Many may remember Hunt as the principal of Booker T. Washington High School, a job he held for 24 years, or, as the pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, a position he maintained from 1921-1973, but what many people do not know about are his efforts behind the scenes in search of equality in Memphis.
For the early twentieth century, Hunt was an anomaly: he had a college education. He spent time at LeMoyne-Owen Institute, Morehouse College, Tennessee State, and Harvard.