|Pages/Publication Date:||352 / 2015|
After the Civil War, Memphis's Beale Street thrived as a cauldron of sex, music, and violence, but out of this turmoil emerged a center of black progress, optimism, and cultural ferment. In his follow-up to The Chitlin' Circuit, Preston Lauterbach tells the story through the saga of the Church family, whose ambition, race pride, and moral complexity indelibly shaped the city. Robert Church, "the South's first black millionaire," grew up a slave owned by his white father. Having survived a deadly race riot in 1866, Church made a fortune with saloons, gambling, and, incredibly, white prostitution, although his money also nurtured the militant journalism of Ida B. Wells and the work of composer W.C. Handy—and pitted him against machine politician E.H. "Boss" Crump.
"Adds a fascinating chapter to civil rights history. But for all the hatred it depicts, this gracefully written book never loses sight of the fun that made Handy exalt that stretch of dirt road."—NYTBR
"Lauterbach brings the history of Memphis to life in this vivid reconstruction of its volatile history ... an engaging, entertaining, and thorough history. Lauterbach superbly handles the city's race relations and the black struggle for equality.... A wonderful portrait of a city in flux and a neighborhood's lasting, though oft-overlooked, legacy."—Publishers Weekly