After the Civil War, Memphis Vagrancy Laws Kept African Americans in ‘Slavery by Another Name’

Federal Authorities Authorized Patrols That Arrested Blacks and Gave Them to White Employers for Bounties

After the Civil War, the four million black Americans who had been enslaved encountered numerous new forms of authority, most of which seemed to promise protection and support rather than exploitation and abuse: teachers in schools, doctors in hospitals, employers who paid wages, the U.S. Army, municipal police, and a federal agency known as the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Becoming free involved figuring out the inconsistent rules and behaviors of these new authorities. The government, even as it sponsored freedom, was not always a just actor—nowhere more egregiously than in the case of …

More In: Tennessee

My Changed Tennessee

Reflections On The Place I Don’t Belong and Always Belong

We hear so much about presidential candidates–and so little about life in the states that elect them. In “Beyond the Circus,” writers take us off the trail and give us …

Miracle of Missionary Ridge

My Unlikely Passion for Civil War Battlefields

I first went to a Civil War battlefield in search of my mother’s great-great-cousin, David Stelle Smith, who fought in a New Jersey regiment at Fredericksburg and died a few …