Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Aram Goudsouzian

Committee Member

Sarah Potter

Committee Member

Scott Marler

Committee Member

Andrew Daily


The global black freedom struggle of the early twentieth century took many turns, while building momentum into the post-World War II era. Along the way, an interracial coterie of activists and disparate organizations rallied around a mass movement for black advancement. They enlarged avenues of resistance and developed strategies for cooperative alliances that laid the groundwork for future organizations and activists, often in areas that remain understudied. This dissertation examines one of those locations, Memphis, Tennessee, and its engagement with the global black freedom struggle during the interwar period. Due to a convergence of local, national, and international forces, the city was a catalyst for increased interracial cooperation and inter-organizational collaboration, which emboldened networks of resistance to the white supremacy structure throughout the South. Connecting to the global black freedom struggle, a template for organizing the South developed in Memphis and was employed well into the civil rights era. By the early twentieth century, Memphis was already wellknown to international and national activists and organizations focused upon black advancement. Black Memphians such as Robert Church, Sr. and Ida Wells worked throughout the late nineteenth century to ensure that African Americans in the city remained enfranchised, had access to economic uplift, and fought the scourge of lynch violence. Their struggles to make Memphis an anomaly with regard to black equality in the South kept the city in a national spotlight. During the early part of the twentieth century, Churchs son, Robert Church Jr., continued that fight as he rose to national prominence within the Republican Party. By 1933, African American radicals such as the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) leader Harry Haywood ventured into Memphis, organizing a yearlong protest against violence directed toward black citizens. In the wake of these protests, interracial cooperation directed toward black advancement increased for the rest of the decade. By examining Memphis during the interwar period with an eye to national and international concerns, this study endeavors to illuminate the citys specific connections to the global black freedom struggle and evinces how the interwar period in Memphis was integral to the American civil rights movement.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest