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Tent City: Stories of Civil Rights in Fayette County, Tennessee
Children Playing in Tent City
Tent City Marker
Sharecropper chops Cotton
Registering to Vote

Welcome to the Tent City Website

The website we have chosen to call "Tent City" covers the series of civil rights events that took place in Fayette County, Tennessee from 1959 into the early 1970s. One of those major efforts—registering black residents to vote—led to what was called Tent City. As a result of registering to vote, many black residents were evicted from the sharecropper housing that had been homes to some families for generations. Ultimately, several hundred people had to move into one of two Tent Cities erected on donated land—some living there for more than 2 years. In addition, black residents who registered to vote were blacklisted by whites from purchasing goods and services necessary to survive day to day, such as milk, eggs, fuel, and even medical care.

Although these events took place over 50 years ago, we still face the same struggles for human rights in the U.S. and around the globe. Tent cities seem to pop up whenever less powerful populations are displaced by those with more economic, political, and social means—either to grab the property of the displaced, or as a result of war migration, racial or ethnic massacres, or other civic and political upheaval—including those following natural disasters or economic downturn.

This website is sponsored by the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change and the Department of English and the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Memphis.