Tent City Movement, King Assassination to be discussed at July event in Memphis

Marc Perrusquia, Willy Bearden, Daphene McFerren, John Ashworth and Bill Carey to present July 27 at the Cotton Exchange


At a time when many members of the general public believe teachers are not allowed to discuss “difficult” racial topics, Tennessee History for Kids is having an event in downtown Memphis that will address these topics head on. On Tuesday, July 27, the non-profit organization Tennessee History for Kids will stage a “Summer Road Show” at the Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange.

Its target audience is public school teachers, although non-teachers are also welcome to register and attend. Topics and presenters include:

Marc Perrusquia, director of the Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis, on the last 32 hours of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. Perrusquia wrote about this topic extensively when he was a reporter at the Memphis Commercial Appeal. His research led to the key discoveries revealed in his 2018 book A Spy in Canaan: How the FBI Used a Famous Photographer to Infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement.

Daphene McFerren, executive director of the Benjamin Hooks Center for Social Change, on Fayette County’s Tent City Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. (Tent City, one of the longest sustained events in the Civil Rights Movement, was a nationally publicized event under which thousands of African-American residents of Fayette County were evicted for trying to vote. The Tent City Movement was one of the key chapters that proved that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was needed.)

John Ashworth, former executive director of the Lynching Sites of Memphis project, on the history of lynching in Tennessee. Ashworth, a Haywood County native and Vietnam veteran, has acquired deep knowledge about lynchings in Tennessee. He is also the founder of the Dunbar Carver Museum.

Willy Bearden, filmmaker, storyteller and historian, on the cotton industry and its effect on the history and culture of Memphis.

Bill Carey on Nathan Bedford Forrest and the rise and fall of the Memphis slave trade. In the process of researching his book Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls: A History of Slavery in Tennessee, Carey created a collection of nearly 1,000 different runaway slave ads published by Tennessee newspapers.

“I’m very excited about this event and proud to have put it together,” says Tennessee History for Kids executive director Bill Carey. “It is also appropriate at a time like this because the general public believe social studies and history teachers are not allowed to teach difficult topics. In fact, everything that will be covered on this day comes up in the social studies standards in at least one Tennessee public school class.

“Teachers and students need to learn more about difficult topics in our history such as lynching, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and the King assassination.”

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Advanced registration is required and costs $40 – an amount that also pays for lunch and admission to the Cotton Museum.

For more information, go to www.tnhistoryforkids.org or email bill@tnhistoryforkids.org.


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