The Memphis Massacre Schoolroom

Teaching Historical Thinking Skills through Historic Newspapers

NYTimes Headline 12 May 1866The press played a central role in shaping the debate over the Memphis Massacre, its origins, its meanings, and its outcomes. Accounts began to proliferate even before the shooting, murdering, and robbing stopped. Written as they were before Congress, the U.S. Army, and the Freedmen's Bureau concluded their investigations, these early accounts tell us less about the massacre itself than they do the political and racial sensibilities of the people who wrote the articles.  See if you can find out what those authors were thinking: about emancipation, about Reconstruction, and about the future of the nation.

Click here for a small sampling of newspaper articles available at the Library of Congress in their digital collection, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Using the attached questions as a guide, play the detective.  See if you can figure out what was going on in the heads of the people who wrote these articles: What did they believe in?  Who did they think should govern the nation, and for whose benefit?