By the turn of the century, the city of Memphis showed signs of recovery from the yellow fever epidemics of the 1870s. The city had regained its charter and thus the right to self-governance; built new sewer and water systems; immunized residents against diseases; and cleaned its streets. In addition, Memphis became the cotton capital of the nation and its population continued to increase as a result of continued migration.
Nevertheless, problems remained. Crime and corruption plagued the city. A substantial number of black Memphians were illiterate and unemployed. Many of the churches and schools that were destroyed during the 1866 riots were never rebuilt. Local tax rates remained high. Streets were unpaved and dirty. In addition, the police and fire departments were unreliable. By the turn of the century, the city of Memphis had one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the country.
Chapter 3 provides an analysis of the dynamics of the Crump machine—its origin and control of both the black and white vote. In addition, black protest efforts during and after the Crump years will be discussed. These included the formation of civil rights and political organizations, the emergence of new community and political leaders, the filing of lawsuits, and other political activities.
The machine era was crucial in black political development because the black community realized the power of its substantial voting bloc. The majority of candidates had little chance for victory unless they received a large percentage of the black vote. During and after the Crump