The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area (TCWNHA) was proud to be one of the major supporters of “Memories of a Massacre: Memphis in 1866, a Symposium Exploring Slavery, Emancipation, and Reconstruction.” The event took place at the University of Memphis from May 20-21, 2016, and featured excellent speakers and spirited community involvement.
The symposium was the highlight of the first-ever public recognition of the effects of the racially motivated violence that engulfed Memphis 150 years ago this May. Newly freed African Americans were subject to murder, rape, and the destruction of their property over a three-day period in May 1866. Coupled with similar violence in New Orleans a few months later, the Memphis massacre convinced the U.S. Congress to enact stricter Reconstruction measures to try to ensure black civil rights were protected in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Matching funds from the TCWNHA were used to provide speakers’ fees for the historians who will be featured at the symposium. They included Timothy S. Huebner and Charles McKinney of Rhodes College, Stephen V. Ash of the University of Tennessee, and Julie Saville of the University of Chicago. Robert K. Sutton, chief historian of the National Park Service, was the keynote speaker.
The symposium was organized by Dr. Beverly Bond and Dr. Susan O’Donovan, both of whom teach in the History Department at the University of Memphis. With the Heritage Area and other partners, Bond and O’Donovan arranged a series of activities in addition to the symposium, including lectures, book discussions, and a teacher workshop. The Teaching with Primary Sources—Middle Tennessee State University program, also administered by the Center for Historic Preservation, partnered with the University of Memphis to lead the teacher workshop.