Memphis Moment: Allen James Walker

Memphis Moment: Allen James Walker, by Steve Pike

Memphis, TN – Allen James Walker was born a slave near Germantown, TN in 1845. During the Civil War, Walker was one of the thousands of local slaves who escaped from their bondage. Walker joined the Union Army, which raised 51 black companies from Shelby and Fayette counties. As a soldier in the 7th US Colored Heavy Artillery, Walker was stationed at Corinth, MS and Fort Pickering, here in Memphis, but was ultimately sent to Fort Pillow, overlooking the Mississippi and Hatchie Rivers.

In a controversial battle on April 12, 1864, the fort was brutally assaulted by Rebel forces under Memphian General Nathan Bedford Forest. Walker, one of the few Union survivors, was captured and forced to work for a Rebel corporal.

In early 1865, Walker was taken to Texas and made to put in a crop for his captor, who conveniently neglected to tell him when the war had ended. Fortunately, Walker escaped again and eventually found his way back home, traveling from Columbus, TX, to Galveston, to New york, to Baltimore, to Cairo, IL, and finally to Memphis, in a circuitous path of over 3,000 miles.

Walker is one of the feature personalities in the Pink Palace Museum's African American Trail exhibit.