HoW: History on Wednesday | Suing for citizenship? Black litigants in Jim Crow Memphis
Dr Hollie Pich | University of Sydney
Suing for citizenship? Black litigants in Jim Crow Memphis
In the early twentieth-century, the rate of personal injury cases skyrocketed in America, with litigants seeking compensation from streetcar and railroad companies packing courtrooms around the nation. In Memphis, Tennessee, droves of residents sued the local streetcar company for physical and emotional injuries. Black Memphians were at the fore of this litigation—and their suits were overwhelmingly successful.
In this paper, I examine the rise of personal injury suits in Memphis, and explain the success of Black litigants—in the face of entrenched racial segregation, and a legal system controlled by white southern racists. I also explore the question posed by this paper’s heading: by bringing these civil suits, were Black litigants suing for their citizenship?
Dr Hollie Pich is an early career researcher, and Research Affiliate at the University of Sydney. She is a historian of race, gender, and the law in the twentieth-century American South.
The Department of History hosts a lively departmental research seminar series. Everyone is welcome to attend.
12:10-1:30pm Wednesday 19 May 2021
The Department of History is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI)
Image: courtesy of the New York Public Library