UofM’s Hooks Institute welcomes Richard Saunders as visiting scholar to research Fayette County Civil Rights Movement 

June 24, 2021 — The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute is pleased to welcome Richard Saunders as a visiting scholar for Summer 2021. As a visiting scholar, Saunders will conduct research on the Fayette County Civil Rights Movement, including conducting video interviews with people close to the movement and collecting manuscripts and other primary materials related to the movement. Saunders’ work as visiting scholar began in June 2021 and will end in August 2021. 

About Richard Saunders 

Dr. Richard Saunders is an academic librarian and former Dean of Library Services at Southern Utah University. A graduate of Utah State University, he holds a library degree from Brigham Young University and a PhD from the University of Memphis. As a PhD student, Saunders researched tensions and interactions in the Fayette civil rights movement and authored a dissertation on the subject. 

About Richard Saunders' Research Project 

Saunders’ fellowship project explores the broader issues of economic and social change growing from postwar modernization in the rural South, using Fayette and Haywood counties as examples. He considers a broad swath of time and experience between the end of traditional cotton-based "New South" culture in 1940 and the effects of deregulation in 1990. Saunders argues that while people were both the agents and casualties of change, the communities were reshaped by forces much larger than themselves. Crop succession, local economic development, social experience, political values, class, race and infrastructure (such as labor and transportation) all reflect and shape rural experience across the period. 

About the Civil Rights Movement of Fayette County, Tennessee 

The Fayette County Civil Rights Movement was a true grassroots movement that includes a series of civil rights events that took place in Fayette County, Tenn. 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 home to some families for generations. Ultimately, numerous families had to move into one of two Tent Cities erected on donated land — some living there for more than two 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. 

About the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change 

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute implements its mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change through research, education and direct intervention programs. Institute programs include community outreach; funding faculty research initiatives on community issues; implementing community service projects; hosting conferences, symposiums and lectures; and promoting local and national scholarship on civil and human rights. The Hooks Institute is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Memphis. Contributed revenue for the Hooks Institute, including funding from individuals, corporations and foundations, is administered through the University of Memphis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit memphis.edu/benhooks