Tent City: Stories of Civil Rights in Fayette County, Tennessee
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 similar 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. These makeshift lving areas are erected 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.
Photo: Fayette County Civil Rights Activist Marching. Photo (left) ©Art Shay, John and Viola McFerren leading protestors to the Fayette County, Tennessee Courthouse, March 1965.