The Last of the Memphis Riot.

May 8, 1866


Memphis riots finally come to a close; no black churches stand in the city from the burnings and violence. Strict military control puts a halt to most of the fighting between whites and blacks of the city.


The Last of the Memphis Riot- The Military in Full Possession- The Causes of the Troubles. From the Bulletin, May 4. Yesterday morning everything was quiet, as far as we could learn. No more arrests had been made. No casualties occurred from shooting last night that we heard of; in fact, there was little or no shooting; an occasional shot, perhaps, over the city, not at any person though. The fires that were mentioned in our last issue were in all parts of the city, but most of "them were in South Memphis, and were reported yesterday morning. The one, though, that occurred on Poplar street, and the one on the corner of Union and Overton streets (both of these were churches), were after we had gone to press; therefore we could make no report. Yesterday we visited again all the sites of this burning, and saw some very appalling things. The worst that we saw was a negro woman, who had been sick, j= being burned to death in a little cabin on South street, near the bridge, in front of the school-house occupied by Rankin, a negro teacher. The school-house was fired Wednesday evening by incendiaries, but this shanty was saved- although several around were burned - until about midnight, when it was fired. In this locality, nearly all being negroes who had witnessed the fighting for the last two days, and had seen so many of their color killed, would not stir for fear of meeting the same fate, and the few whites here were too much frightened to venture out to stop the fire in such a poor, miserable-looking hovel; consequently, we could not get many of the particulars of the sad occurrence. All we could gather was that the house was burned down, having been set on fire by some unknown person, and this woman, having been confined to her bed several days, was supposed to be unable to get from the house, or else, being asleep, had no time to make her escape. We were told that some supposed after the house was partly burned down, some one passing and hearing her cries pulled her out of the burning mass and laid her down at some little distance from the cabin, but her clothes caught from the sparks, and thus she died. Nearly all of her clothes was burned off, and an old shawl was spread over her. No marks of violence were to be seen on her body. This was truly an infamous deed, and all good citizens are speaking of it in the same way. Burning churches, school-houses, and dwellings of innocent persons is a crime that should not go unpunished by the civil authorities. There are no negro churches now standing within our knowledge, in the city.
About this article

Contributed By

Brooke Beam


BeamBrooke-18660508-Last of the Memphis Riot.pdf


“The Last of the Memphis Riot.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 30, 2023,