History of Memphis
Memphis always attracted settlers because of its unique location on a large bluff. The area was first inhabited by the Mississippian Culture and later by the Chickasaw tribe. European exploration began in the 16th century with Hernando de Soto and Sieur de La Salle expeditions. The area remained unorganized for the most of the 18th century. Memphis was founded in 1819 and named after the ancient Egypt capital on the Nile. Located high above the Mississippi River, Memphis was safe from flooding, which enabled its growth and development into a transportation center. The city also became one of the largest slave labor markets. The Memphis and Charleston Railroad was completed in 1857 and at the time it was the only east-west railroad in the South.
Tennessee declared secession from the Union in June 1861. The naval Battle of Memphis was fought in June 1862 and the city remained under Union control until the end of the war.
In 1878, a yellow fever outbreak reduced the population of Memphis by 75%. In the 29th century, Memphis became the largest spot cotton and hardwood lumber market in the world. In the 1950s it was also the largest mule market in the world.
In the 1960s, Memphis faced many civil rights issues, from racial tensions to a sanitation workers’ strike. One of the most important events of the century in Memphis was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel.
Over the course of the 20th century Memphis made many pivotal contributions to the cultural identity of the American South. It was home to such great names as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Al Green , Isaac Hayes, Alex Chilton, Justin Timberlake, Three 6 Mafia, Jay Reatard and many more.
Geography and Climate
Memphis is located in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, on a bluff along the Mississippi River. Some of its parts spread into northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas. The total area of the city is 324 square miles, of which 2,76% is water.
The city has a humid subtropical climate. Winter weather is influenced by the Great Plains and also by the Gulf of Mexico and it is characterized by drastic temperature swings. Summer weather comes either from Texas (very hot and humid) or from the Gulf (hot and very humid).Severe thunderstorms are typical for spring months, while ice storms and freezing rain pose a great deal of danger during winter.
Population of Memphis
The racial makeup in Memphis is 62.6% Black or African American, 29.5% non-Hispanic White, 5% Hispanic or Latino, 1,7% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.7% some other race and 1.2% two or more races.
Memphis is the location of the Mason Temple, the international headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, the second-largest Pentecostal denomination in the USA. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in this church a day after he delivered his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. The city also has two cathedrals, two stakes of the LDS Church, one Orthodox and one Reform synagogue, as well as a large Muslim community.
The city’s central location on the Mississippi River and at the intersection of five freight railroads and two major interstate highways (I-40 and I-55) have contributed largely to its development and transformation into a modern transportation and shipping hub. Memphis International Airport is the second-busiest cargo airport, after Hong Kong and the primary hub for FedEx.
Some of the largest companies based in Memphis include FedEx, AutoZone, International Paper, Allenberg Cotton, Cargill Cotton, ARS/Rescue Rooter, Fred’s, Pinnacle Airlines, First Horizon National Corporation, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz and many more.
Culture and Arts
Memphis has recently been discovered by the movie and entertainment industry. Some of the movies filmed in the city include The People Vs. Larry Flynt, The Silence of the Lambs, The Firm, 21 Grams, Black Snake Moan and Walk the Line.
Memphis has been crucial for the development of pop music, especially genres such as Memphis soul, Memphis jazz, rock’n’roll, gospel, blues, crunk and “sharecropper” country music (as opposed to Nashville’s “rhinestone” country music). Many seminal musicians got their start in the city, most notably Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Otis Redding, B.B. King and Carl Perkins. Some of historic landmarks related to the popular music in Memphis include Beale Street, reflecting the impact of the city on American blues, the legendary Sun Studio where Elvis, Johnny Cash and others made their first recordings, and the Stax Records, major contributor to the soul music in the 1960s.
As for the visual arts, Memphis is home to the Brooks Museum and Dixon Gallery and Gardens, as well as two art districts - the South Main Art District and Broad Street, both with many art venues, studios, galleries and clubs.
Large annual events in Memphis include Memphis in May, Memphis Italian Festival, Carnival Memphis, Indie Memphis Film Festival and the International Blues Awards.
Education in Memphis
Top colleges and universities in Memphis include University of Memphis, Christian Brothers University, Rhodes College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Harding School of Theology, Baptist College of Health Sciences, Southern College of Optometry and Southwest Tennessee Community College.
The only major sports league team in the city are the Memphis Grizzlies. Minor leagues are well represented in Memphis and so are the college sports (University of Memphis Tigers, playing at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium).