"He wanders west as far as Memphis, a solitary migrant upon that flat and pastoral landscape. Blacks in the fields, lank and stooped, their fingers spiderlike among the bolls of cotton"
19th century African-American cotton pickers and white overseer - Credit: Kate Heintz Watson
The city of Memphis is located in the western corner of Tennessee. It was founded in 1819 by John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson, who named it after the ancient Egyptian capital.
It became a major slave market during the 19th century, since the cotton economy of the antebellum South depended on the forced labour of large numbers of African-American slaves. At the height of the plantation system in 1850, when cotton had become the dominant cash crop of the South, 1.8 million of the 2.5 million slaves in the United States (nearly 75 percent) were involved in the production of cotton.