Memphis riots of 1866
The Memphis riots of 1866 were the violent events that occurred from May 1 to 3 in Memphis, Tennessee. The racial violence was ignited by political, social and racial tensions following the American Civil War, in the early stages of Reconstruction. After a shooting altercation between white policemen and black soldiers recently mustered out of the Union Army, mobs of white civilians and policemen rampaged through black neighborhoods and the houses of freedmen, attacking and killing men, women and children.
Federal troops were sent to quell the violence and peace was restored on the third day. A subsequent report by a joint Congressional Committee detailed the carnage, with blacks suffering most of the injuries and deaths: 46 blacks and 2 whites were killed, 75 blacks injured, over 100 black persons robbed, 5 black women raped, and 91 homes, 4 churches and 8 schools burned in the black community. Modern estimates place property losses at over $100,000, also suffered mostly by blacks. Many blacks fled the city permanently; by 1870, their population had fallen by one quarter compared to 1865.
Public attention following the riots and reports of the atrocities, together with the New Orleans riot in July, strengthened the case made by Radical Republicans in U.S. Congress. The events influenced passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to grant full citizenship to freedmen, as well as passage of the Reconstruction Act to establish military districts and oversight in certain states.
Investigation of the riot suggested specific causes related to competition for housing, work and social space between Irish immigrants and their descendants, and the freedmen. The white gentry also sought to drive freedpeople out of Memphis and back onto plantations where their labor could be exploited. Through violent terrorism, the white community at large sought to force blacks to respect white supremacy as the time of fully legal slavery was nearing its end.
- 1 Background
- 2 Riots
- 3 Aftermath
- 4 References
- 5 External links
After the capture of Memphis by Union forces in 1862 and occupation of the state, the city became a center for contraband camps as well as haven for fugitive slaves seeking refuge from their former owners. In Shelby County and the four adjacent counties around the city, the slave population in 1860 was 45,000. With the people migrating to the city, the black population of Memphis increased from 3,000 in 1860 to nearly 20,000 in 1865. While some lived in camps, families of the 3rd Artillery, a black unit that had been stationed there for a time, built cabins and shacks. They settled beyond the city limits near Fort Pickering, in what was called South Memphis. Many of their families moved to the same area.
Unique among states because of the long term military occupation, Tennessee was subject to a de facto Black Code which depended on the complicity of police, lawyers, judges, jailers, etc. The slaveholding economy of Tennessee and the Memphis area had also begun to feel the effects of autonomous emancipation, as they could no longer rely on profits from forced labor. White resentment of the freedmen in Memphis led the military to establish a policy of capturing blacks on vagrancy charges, so they could be forced back onto plantations  To General Nathan Dudley, who established this policy for the Memphis Freedman's Bureau, local Reverend T. E. Bliss wrote:
How is it that the colored children in Memphis even with their spelling books in their hands are caught up by your order & taken to the same place & there insolently told that they 'had better be picking cotton.' Is it for the purpose of conciliating' their old rebel masters & assisting them to get help to secure their Cotton Crop? Has it come to this that the most Common rights of these poor people are thus to be trampled upon for the benefit of those who have wronged them all their days?
Black soldiers counteracted efforts to direct people back to the plantations. General Davis Tilson, head of the Memphis Freedman's Bureau prior to Dudley, complained, regarding soldiers dispatched to threaten people to return to work on the plantations, that “colored soldiers interfere with their labors and tell the freed people that the statements made to them . . . are false, thereby embarrassing the operations of the Bureau.”
Prior to the war, Irish immigrants had constituted a major wave of newcomers to the city: ethnic Irish made up 9.9 percent of the population in 1850, but 23.2 percent by 1860. They had encountered considerable discrimination but by 1860, they occupied most positions in the police force, and had gained many elected and patronage positions in city government, including the mayor's office. But the Irish also competed with blacks for lower-class jobs rejected by native whites, contributing to animosity between the two groups.
Most of the Irish had arrived beginning mid-century, since the Great Famine of the 1840s. Many settled in South Memphis, a new and ethnically diverse neighborhood constructed on two bayous. South Memphis was home mostly to families of craftsmen and semi-skilled workers. When the Army occupied Memphis they took over nearby Fort Pickering as a base of operations. The Freedmen's Bureau also established itself in this area, and black settlement was concentrated just outside city limits to the South.
In the early years of the occupation, the Union Army permitted civil government, while prohibiting known Confederate veterans from taking office. Many ethnic Irish entered city government. General Washburne dissolved the city government in July 1864; it was restored after the end of military rule under the occupation in July 1865.
The Daily Avalanche was one of the local papers that exacerbated tensions toward blacks, as well as against the federal Reconstruction efforts after the war. The report by the Freedmen's Bureau after the riot described the long "bitterness" between the blacks and the "low whites," aggravated by some recent incidents between them. Having been told by the mayor and citizens of Memphis that they could keep order, Major General George Stoneman had reduced his forces at Fort Pickering, and had only about 150 men assigned there. They were used to protect the large amount of material at the fort.
Social tensions in the city had been heightened when the US Army used black Union Army soldiers to patrol Memphis. There was competition between the military and local government as to who was in charge; after the war, the developing role of the Freedmen's Bureau added to the ambiguity. Through early 1866, there were numerous instances of threats and fighting between black soldiers going about the city, and white Memphis policemen, who were 90% Irish immigrants. Numerous witnesses testified to the tensions between the ethnic groups. Officials of the Freedmen's Bureau reported that police arrested black soldiers for minor offenses and usually treated them brutally, in contrast to their treatment of white suspects. "One historian described the composition of the police force as being like “taking a troop of lions to guard a herd of unruly cattle”(U.S. House 1866:143)." Police were used to interacting with black people under Tennessee's slave laws and felt perturbed to say the least by armed black men in uniform.
Incidents of police brutality mounted. In September 1865 Brigadier General John E. Smith banned “the public entertainments, balls, and parties heretofore frequently given by the colored people of this City”, police violently intervened in black gatherings and on one occasion attempted to arrest a group of women (married to soldiers who were present) on grounds of prostitution. Soldiers prevented the arrest and an armed standoff ensued. Police shoved and beat people in the street for the crime of “insolence.”
The day before the riots
Although black soldiers were commended by their officers for restraint in these cases, rumors spread among the white community that blacks were planning some type of organized revenge for such incidents. Trouble was anticipated when most black Union troops (the Third United States Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment) were mustered out of the army on April 30, 1866. The former soldiers had to remain in the city for several days while they waited to receive their discharge pay; the Army took back their weapons, but some of the men had gained private ones. They passed the time by walking around town, drinking, and celebrating.
On the afternoon of April 30, there was a street fight between a group of three soldiers and four policemen. After taunting on both sides and a physical collision, a police officer whacked a soldier in the head with a firearm, hard enough to break it. Some fighting ensued and then the two groups went their separate ways. News of the incident spread across town.
Conflict with black soldiers
On May 1, 1866, a large group of black soldiers had gathered on the street drinking whiskey and having a good time. At about 4:00, City Recorder John Creighton ordered four police officers to break up the party. The police obeyed despite the dubious legality of Creighton's command.
Tension escalated as the soldiers refused to disperse. The four officers, heavily outnumbered, retreated and called for reinforcements. The soldiers gave chase. Gunfire broke out. Officer Stevens accidentally shot himself in the leg while drawing his firearm. His injury was nevertheless blamed on the soldiers and served as a rallying cause for additional policemen and other participants in the riot. The conflict escalates and Officer Finn is shot and killed on Avery Street.
Creighton and O'Neill left the scene to report that two police officers had been shot. A force of city police officers and angry white Memphians assembles to engage the black soldiers in South Memphis. Several soldiers were shot and killed early in the evening, including some who were fleeing and wounded, and one who was already under arrest.
General George Stoneman was approached about using military force to restore order; he declined and suggested that Sheriff Winters create a posse. In fact Stoneman authorized Captain Arthur W. Allyn to deploy two units of soldiers from Fort Pickering. They patrolled Memphis from about 6:00 to 10:00 or 11:00, by which time most of the black soldiers had returned to base. Stoneman also ordered all black soldiers returning to Fort Pickering to be disarmed and kept on base.
Finding no soldiers, the mob that had formed by this time attacked various black homes in the area, looting, assaulting, killing, abusing and gang-raping the people they found there. They attacked houses, schools and churches, burning many, as well as indiscriminately attacking black women and children as well as men, killing many and committing atrocities. Some people were killed when the mob forced them to stay in their burning house.
These activities resumed on the morning of May 2 and continued for a full day. Police and firefighters made up one third of the mob (24% and 10%, respectively, of the total group); they were joined by small business owners (28%), clerks (10%), artisans (10%), and city officials (4.5%). John Pendergast, and his sons Michael and Patrick, reportedly played a key role in organizing the violence, and used their grocery store at South St. & Causey St. as a base of operations. One black woman reported that Pendergast told her, “I am the man that fetched this mob out here, and they will do just what I tell them.”
After the first day, as General Stoneman later said, the blacks had little to do with the riot except be killed and abused. At the site of the initial incident, City Recorder John Creighton[disambiguation needed] incited a white crowd to arm and go to kill the blacks and drive them from the city. There were also rumors of an armed rebellion of Memphis' black residents. These false claims were spread by local white officials and rabble rousers. Memphis Mayor John Park was suspiciously absent (said to be intoxicated), General Runkle, head of the Freedmen's Bureau, had insufficient forces to help, and General George Stoneman, the commander of federal occupation troops in Memphis, was indecisive in trying to suppress the early stages of the rioting, increasing the scale of damages.
46 blacks and 2 whites were killed (one wounded himself and the other was apparently killed by other whites), 75 persons injured (mostly black), over 100 persons robbed, 5 black women raped, and 91 homes (89 held by blacks, one held by a white and one by an inter-racial couple), 4 black churches and 12 black schools burned. Modern estimates place property losses at over $100,000, including pay taken from black veterans by the police in the first encounters.
Confederate veteran Ben Dennis was killed on May 3 for conversing with a black friend in a bar.
The violence was not indiscriminate; it focused especially on the homes (and wives) of black soldiers. Arson was the most common crime committed. The mob singled out certain households while sparing others due to perceived subservience of the occupants.
The Daily Avalanche praised Stoneman for his actions during the events, commenting in an editorial: “He has acted upon the idea that if troops are necessary here to protect the rights of the blacks ever, white troops can do this with less offense to our people than black ones. He knows the wants of this country and sees that the negro can do the country more good in the cotton field than in the camp.” The Avalanche also professed its faith that the violence would restore the old social order: “The chief source of all our trouble being removed, we may confidently expect a restoration of the old order of things. The negro population will now do their duty. . . . Negro men and negro women are suddenly looking for work on country farms. . . . Thank heaven, the white race are once more rulers in Memphis.”
No criminal proceedings took place against the instigators or perpetrators of atrocities committed during the Memphis riots. The United States Attorney General, James Speed, ruled that judicial actions associated with the riots fell under state jurisdiction. But, state and local officials refused to take action, and no grand jury was ever invoked. Although criticized at the time for his inaction, General Stoneman was investigated by a congressional committee and was exonerated. He said that he was reluctant to intervene initially, as the people of Memphis had said they could police themselves, and he needed direct communication and a request from the mayor and council. On May 3, when they asked for his support in putting together a posse, he told them he would not permit that and refused to allow groups to assemble. The riot lost its power. The Memphis riots did not mar his political career, as he was later elected governor of California (1883–87).
Investigation by Freedmen's Bureau
The Memphis riot was investigated by the Freedmen's Bureau, aided by the Army IG for Tennessee, who also gathered affidavits from those involved. In addition, there was investigation and report by a Congressional committee, which reached Memphis on May 22 and interviewed 170 witnesses, gathering extensive oral histories from both blacks and whites.
Historian Altina Waller argues that these initial investigations deliberately overemphasized the role of ethnic tension between Irish and blacks. Waller suggests that the rioters were not, in fact, overwhelmingly Irish and mostly did not come from the Irish ghetto in Memphis.
The outcome of the Memphis riot and a similar incident (the New Orleans riot in July 1866 of whites against blacks) was to increase support for Radical Reconstruction. Reports of the riot discredited President Andrew Johnson, who was from Tennessee and had been military governor of Tennessee under Lincoln. Johnson's program of Presidential Reconstruction was blocked, and the Congress moved toward Radical Reconstruction. The Radical Republicans swept the congressional elections of 1866, obtaining a veto-proof majority in Washington. Subsequently, they passed key pieces of legislation, such as the Reconstruction Acts, Force Acts, and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution which guaranteed citizenship, equal protection of the laws, and due process to former slaves. The change in political climate, catalyzed by response to the race riots, ultimately enabled former slaves to obtain the full rights of citizenship.
For the Tennessee Assembly, the riot highlighted the lack of state laws defining the status of freedmen.
Many blacks left the city permanently because of the hostile environment, and the Freedmen's Bureau continued to struggle to protect them. By 1870, the black population had declined by one-quarter from 1865, to about 15,000. However the black community was not completely cowed; on May 22, dock workers held a strike and marched for higher wages. (All strikers were arrested.) Over the summer, the black Sons of Ham organization also held demonstrations for black suffrage.
Waller related the white attacks to a "pre-modern," ritualized community response to perceived threats and attempts to keep order. She argues that the local elite succeeded in exploiting the riots and blaming the violence on the Irish ethnic group.Waller writes:
Remarkable, the Memphis elite had it both ways with this riot. The Irish were persuaded to act as the “cat's paw” driving many blacks out of Memphis as well as frightening them into keeping their place while at the same time, blame for the riot was placed squarely on the Irish community and used as the major argument for a reformed police force charged with preventing such collective community violence in the future. It was one step in the process which went hand in hand with modernization, of making collective violence the legitimate tool of police and military agencies controlled by the established elite. So successful has this effort been in the twentieth century that police action and warfare are no longer considered deviant, while mobs, riots, and revolutionary resistance are studied as social problems.
- Zuczek, Richard (ed.). 2006. Encyclopedia of the Reconstruction Era: Memphis Riot (1866).
- United States Congress, House Select Committee on the Memphis Riots, Memphis Riots and Massacres, 25 July 1866, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office (reprinted by Arno Press, Inc., 1969)
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 243.
- Waller, “Community, Class, and Race” (1984), p. 233.
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), p. 123. “The Memphis riot was a brutal episode in the ongoing struggle that continued well past the actual moment of emancipation to establish the boundaries around and possibilities for action by blacks. The rioters asserted dominance over blacks and attempted to establish limitations on black behavior. Where one cultural code had governed racial interaction under slavery, another, more appropriate to the new black status, had to be established after blacks claimed their freedom.”
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 244.
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), p. 112. “Once large numbers of black soldiers came to be stationed at Memphis, members of their families began to settle there as well.”
- Forehand, “Striking Resemblance” (1996), pp. 12–13.
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), pp. 113–115. “Major William Gray, one of Dudley's officers, remarked in September, that 'I am daily urged by influential persons in the city' to compel freedmen and women to accept plantation jobs.' Dudley's attitude regarding the status of freedmen is apparent in a letter that same month, in which he wrote 'worthless, idle, persons have no rights to claim the same benefits arising from their freedom that the industrious and honest are entitled to.' In October he ordered that the streets be patroled by soldiers from Fort Pickering to pick up 'vagrants' and force them to accept labor contracts with rural planters. To some, and especially to blacks, this policy seemed akin to the reimposition of slavery.”
- Quoted in Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), p. 115.
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), p. 116. Tilson is discussing “the soldiers employed to visit the Freed people in and about Memphis and inform them that none but those having sufficient means or so permanently employed as to be able to take care of themselves will be allowed to remain.”
- Carriere, Marius. (2001), "An Irresponsible Press: Memphis Newspapers and the 1866 Riot," Tennessee Historical Quarterly 60(1):2
- Bordelon, John. (2006), "Rebels to the Core‟: Memphians under William T. Sherman," Rhodes Journal of Regional Studies 3:7
- Walker, Barrington. (1998), "'This is the White Man's Day': The Irish, White Racial Identity, and the 1866 Memphis Riots," Left History, 5(2), p. 36
- Congress (1866), Memphis Riots and Massacres, p.6
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 244.
- Waller, “Community, Class, and Race” (1984), p. 235. “It was one of several neighborhoods in Memphis whose residents could have entertained reasonable hopes for social and economic mobility, but whose precarious position within the social structure made them most vulnerable to economic fluctuation. It was also a neighborhood characterized by class homogeneity but lacking in any cohesive cultural idenity. Thus, in addition to economic vulnerability, the residents of South Street might also be described as socially and culturally vulnerable as well. While the entire economy of Memphis suffered from the complete collapse of the cotton trade in the first year of the war, it was this new, economically precarious neighborhood which was most directly confronted in with the dramatic social and demographic changes which accompanied the capture of Memphis by Union forces on June 6, 1862.”
- Art Carden and Christopher J. Coyne, "An Unrighteous Piece of Business: A New Institutional Analysis of the Memphis Riot of 1866", Mercatus Center, George Mason University, July 2010, accessed 1 February 2014
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 245.
- "Report of an investigation of the cause, origin, and results of the late riots in the city of Memphis made by Col. Charles F. Johnson, Inspector General States of Ky. And Tennessee and Major T. W. Gilbreth, A. D. C. To Maj. Genl. Howard, Commissioner Bureau R. F. & A. Lands", 22 May 1866, Freedmen's Bureau Online, website, accessed 31 January 2014
- Congress (1866), Memphis Riots and Massacres, p.1
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), p. 118. “Such behavior on the part of black soldiers was fundamentally challenging to the Memphis police, who prior to the war had been charged with enforcing the local slave codes. The soldier's conduct was disorderly, but it was flagrantly so by comparison with the expectations of black public behavior under slavery.”
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), pp. 117–118.
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), p. 119.
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), pp. 93–94. "Three black men in military uniform, walking south on the sidewalk, have encountered four policemen going in the opposite direction. The blacks have given way to the officers, but words have been exchanged, the two parties have halted, and there is trouble of some sort. One of the blacks dashes into the muddy street, trips, and falls. A policeman follows, collides with him, and also falls. Both get up and return to the sidewalk. All the men are angry, whites and blacks cursing one another. The officers pull out revolvers. "
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 246. “That very afternoon an incident in which blacks fought against their tormentors provided an ominous foreshadowng of the next day's riots. Four Irish policemen and three or four former soldiers battled briefly with fists and bricks in the middle of Causey Street. After several minutes both parties separated, threatening each other with pistols and knives.”
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), p. 96. “It is getting close to four o'clock. Near the corner of Causey and South, two or three hundred yards east of where the rowdy ex-soldiers are congregated and very close to the Diltses's house, four policemen are walking their beat. They are James Finn, David Carroll, John O'Neill, and John Stevens, Irishmen all. A buggy pulls up next to them. In it is John C. Creighton, the city recorder. Somehow he has gotten wind of the disturbance down the street and has decided to do something about it. He orders the four to go disperse the crowd. One protests that the area is beyond his beat. (The city's southern boundary runs down the middle of South Street, and the south side of the street is thus beyond city limits.) Creighton replies, 'I do not care a damn about whether it is your beat or not, I want you to go there.' The four policemen may also have doubts about Creighton's authority to order them around, for he is a judicial officer, not part of the police department's chain of command. But Creighton is a powerful municipal official and a prominent and popular member of the Irish community, and he has a forceful personality. The policemen obey him. Heading west on South, they cross a short bridge that spans the bayou. A short distance beyond that they confront the black crowd.”
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), p. 97.
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), p. 98.
- "The Memphis Riots", Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, 26 May 1866 (Also see editor's note.)]
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), pp. 99–100.
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 248
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), p. 103.
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 247.
- Civil War Album: Fort Pickering
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), pp. 247–248. “Finding the streets empty, the crowd divided into smaller bands. Some members, including Sheriff Winters, returned to their homes. Others, led by the city police, invaded the black community under pretext of seeking arms. Once inside the homes of the Negroes, the white men often robbed, beat or raped the inhabitants. They also '… commenced an indiscriminate slaughter of innocent, unoffending and helpeless negroes wherever found, and without regard to age, sex or condition; the crowd set fire to their houses and tried-to force the inmates to remain there until they should be consumed by flames, or, if they attempted to escape, shooting them as wild beasts.'”
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), p. 120. “About ten o'clock Allyn's troops left South Memphis, and some time thereafter a larger “posse” arrived in the area. Finding no organized resistance, this new group split up into small groups to look for black soldiers. Under the pretext of searching for arms, and led by policemen and local community leaders, these men entered the homes of many blacks, beating and killing the inhabitants, robbing them, and raping a number of black women.”
- "Memphis Race Riot", Tennessee Encyclopedia
- Waller, “Community, Class, and Race” (1984), p. 237.
- Waller, “Community, Class, and Race” (1984), p. 238. “At the center of the riot, the intersection of South and Causey Streets, the grocery-saloon keeper mentioned most often as leader operated his business. […] Many witnesses corroborated the fact that Pendergast and his two sons, Michael and Patrick, were the chief organizers and planners of the riot, that their grocery store was a sort of headquarters where rioters gathered to collect ammunition and make plans.”
- Congress (1866), Memphis Riots and Massacres, p.4
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), pp. 250–251.
- Herbert Shapiro, White Violence and Black Response: From Reconstruction to Montgomery; University of Massachusetts Press, 1988; p. 7.
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 249.
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 250.
- Waller, “Community, Class, and Race” (1984), p. 240.
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), pp. 121–123. “It is clear, however, that while the rioters were very much concerned with diarming blacks, they sought more fundamentally to subjugate the black community and especially community members with Union military connections.
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 252.
- Hardwick, “Your Old Father Abe Lincoln Is Dead And Damned” (1993), p. 123.
- Waller, “Community, Class, and Race” (1984), p. 234. "I am convinced that I have identified at least one-half and possibly three fourths of the rioters. Fifty to 60 percent do appear to have Irish surnames, but beyond that, the conventional assumptions about the rioters are not confirmed. Take residence, for example; 49 of the 68 were located as to street and ward — a success rate of 72 percent. Only three individuals resided in the Irish ghetto warrds one and three, while 36 or 53 percent resided in Wards six and seven where riot activity was concentrated.
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), p. 187.
- Forehand, “Striking Resemblance” (1996), pp. 44–47.
- Ryan, “The Memphis Riots of 1866” (1977), p. 254.
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), pp. 184–185.
- Waller, “Community, Class, and Race” (1984), pp. 241 242 . “Nevertheless, although the rioters were not prosecuted, the elite did succeed in blaming the Irish for disorder in their city. The riot was used as an argument for the reform and professionalization of the police force. […] The uniform, training, and sense of pride which reformers were attempting to inculcate in the police were intended to break down the ethnic and community solidarity which had previously characterized Memphis police. Rather than protecting the integrity of their neighborhood, the police were trained to protect property in the downtown business section of the city.”
- Waller, “Community, Class, and Race” (1984), p. 242.
- Lovett, Bobby L. (1979). "Memphis Riots: White Reaction to Blacks in Memphis, May 1865-July 1866", Tennessee Historical Quarterly 38: 9-33
- Ash, Massacre in Memphis (2013), p. 185.
- Ash, Stephen V. (2013). A Massacre in Memphis: The Race Riot that Shook the Nation One Year After the Civil War. New York: Hill and Wang (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux), 2013. ISBN 978-0-8090-6797-8
- Forehand, Beverly. “Striking Resemblance: Kentucky, Tennessee, Black Codes and Readjustment, 1865–1866”. Western Kentucky University, Masters Thesis, accepted May 1996.
- Hardwick, Kevin R. (1993) “'Your Old Father Abe Lincoln is Dead and Damned': Black Soldiers and the Memphis Race Riot of 1866”. Journal of Social History 27(1), Autumn 1993; pp. 109–218. Accessed from JStor 29 August 2014.
- Ryan, James G. (1977). "The Memphis Riots of 1866: Terror in a black community during Reconstruction", The Journal of Negro History 62 (3): pp. 243-257, at JSTOR.
- Waller, Altina L. (1984). "Community, Class and Race in the Memphis Riot of 1866", Journal of Social History 18 (2): 233-246. At JStor.
- "Report of an investigation of the cause, origin, and results of the late riots in the city of Memphis made by Col. Charles F. Johnson, Inspector General States of Ky. And Tennessee and Major T. W. Gilbreth, A. D. C. To Maj. Genl. Howard, Commissioner Bureau R. F. & A. Lands", 22 May 1866, Freedmen's Bureau Online, website
- United States Congress, House Select Committee on the Memphis Riots, Memphis Riots and Massacres, 25 July 1866, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office (reprinted by Arno Press, Inc., 1969), pp. 1–65
- Events: The "Race Riots" of 1866, Memphis History website
- Art Carden and Christopher J. Coyne, "An Unrighteous Piece of Business: A New Institutional Analysis of the Memphis Riot of 1866", Mercatus Center, George Mason University, July 2010
- "The Memphis Riot" — article appearing in the Pennsylvania newspaper American Citizen, 23 May 1866 (courtesy of the Chronicling America project).