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Crusades for Freedom - Memphis and the Political Transformation of the American South

Crusades for Freedom

Memphis and the Political Transformation of the American South

By G. Wayne Dowdy
Paperback : 9781617037092, 183 pages, October 2013
Hardcover : 9781604734232, 176 pages, February 2010

How Republicans and African Americans took the stage after the fall of a great southern political machine


During the first half of the twentieth century, the city of Memphis was governed by the Shelby County Democratic Party controlled by Edward Hull Crump, described by Time magazine as “the most absolute political boss in the US.” Crusades for Freedom chronicles the demise of the Crump political machine and the corresponding rise to power of the South’s two minorities, African Americans and Republicans.

Between the years 1948 and 1968, Memphis emerged as a battleground in the struggle to create a strong two-party South. For the first time in its history, both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates campaigned vigorously for the Bluff City's votes. Closely tied to these changing political fortunes was the struggle of African Americans to overturn two centuries of discrimination. At the same time, many believed that the city needed a more modern political structure to meet the challenges of the 1950s and 1960s, preferably a mayor–city council governmental structure. By 1968 the segregated social order had collapsed, Black politicians were firmly entrenched within the Democratic Party, southern whites had swelled the ranks of the GOP, and Memphis had adopted a new city charter.


"Crusades for Freedom successfully blends black, white, urban, political, and civil rights history into a smooth narrative. It explains in a balanced, factual, well-documented, and thorough style the recent politics in Memphis, whose biracial history indeed is complex, intriguing and highly interesting. The book shows the gradual development of a white two-party political system in Memphis and sets the stage for the ascendancy of black-dominated politics in Memphis. One of the best books published on Tennessee urban history."

- Bobby L. Lovett, professor at Tennessee State University and author of The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee: A Narrative History

"Crusades for Freedom is the most complete history of Memphis politics (1948-1968) to date. Dowdy's research into and use of primary sources is excellent and allows him to provide a much fuller picture of the political activities during these extremely important years. People interested in southern history, urban history and the history of the mid-South will find this work of great value."

- Kenneth W. Goings, author of Mammy and Uncle Mose: Black Collectibles and American Stereotyping and coeditor of The New African American Urban History