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Civil Rights

Want to dig deeper into the themes behind The Two Lives of Sara? Explore these resources:

Civil Rights Movement

  • The Murder of Emmett Till: Watch this episode of American Experience and learn about Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy whose death in 1955 was a spark that helped mobilize the civil rights movement.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Visits Chicago: On January 7, 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) announced plans for the Chicago Freedom Movement, a campaign that marked the expansion of their civil rights activities from the South to northern cities.
  • Milestones of the Civil Rights Movement: Learn more about the time period between the United States Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education (1954) to the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965.
  • Desegregation of Memphis City Schools: 1960 was a banner year for the Memphis NAACP branch. The organization challenged the city's segregated school system in Northcross v. Board of Education of the Memphis City Schools.
  • 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike: After two African American Memphis garbage collectors were killed by poorly maintained equipment, 1,300 African American public works employees went on strike to protest a long pattern of neglect and abuse.
  • Civil Rights History Infographic

Great Migration

Image Source : US Census Bureau. “The Great Migration, 1910 to 1970.” U.S. Census, March 1, 1994.

Great Migration

  • An Overview on The Great Migration (1910-1970): Learn more about the Great Migration, one of the largest movements of people in United States history. Approximately six million African Americans moved from the American South to Northern, Midwestern and Western states roughly from the 1910s until the 1970s.
  • Memphis: The First Black Mecca: Read more about the Orange Mound, also known as the Mecca. This is the oldest African American neighborhood in the United States.
  • Mecca Flats: Destroyed in 1952, Mecca Flats was a Bronzeville residence that became a gathering spot for the Chicago Black Renaissance.

Lowenstein Mansion image. Click for full size.

Image Source: Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. “Lowenstein Mansion” The Historical Marker Database, June 25, 2014.  

Boarding Houses in History

  • A Brief History of Co-Living Spaces: See how boarding houses shaped urban life, preserved someone’s culture of origin and accommodated working women far from home. 
  • Boarding Houses of Chicago: During Chicago's early boom years, when housing facilities lagged behind population growth, many visitors and newcomers found lodging and meals in the households of private citizens.
  • Jane Addams and Hull-House in Chicago: Hull-House, Chicago's first social settlement, was not only the private home of Jane Addams and other Hull-House residents, but also a place where immigrants of diverse communities gathered to acquire the tools necessary to put down roots in their new country.
  • Lowenstein House: The Lowenstein mansion was converted into a boarding house for young women who had come to Memphis from rural areas to work in factories during and after World War I. 
  • The Return of Boarding Houses to Chicago: Read more about how the cost of living in neighborhoods like West Loop, Logan Square and Pilsen, as well as the desire to live near friends and cultural institutions, have brought back demand for communal living places like boarding houses. 


    National Civil Rights Museum

    Image Source: Antony-22. “National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in 2022” Wikimedia Commons, May 29, 2022.  

    Places to Visit



    • National Civil Rights Museum: The National Civil Rights Museum explores the history of the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on our culture today.
    • The Four Way: This soul food restaurant has been serving up fried catfish, turnip greens and fried green tomatoes since 1946. It is famous for being one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s favorite spots to grab a bite to eat where he would often dine with other Civil Rights leaders.

    Southern Soul Music Scene

    • A Brief History of Memphis Music: Memphis is home to much of what we know as modern American music. Soul, gospel, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and other genres of music all have their roots in Memphis.  
    • Stax Records: Originally known as Satellite, this Memphis company was founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart and co-owned with his sister, Estelle Axton. It is synonymous with Southern soul music.
    • Sun Studio: Located in Memphis, Tennessee, this studio hosted legendary blues and R&B talent in the early 1950s: Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Parker and B.B. King. They later recorded the Million Dollar Quartet of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
    • WDIA Radio Station: This station was the first Black radio station. It went on the air on June 7, 1947 from studios on Union Avenue in downtown Memphis. Legends such as B.B. King and Rufus Thomas got their start by working at WDIA. 

    African American Voices in Contemporary Culture

    Chicago Defender

    Image Source: "Chicago Defender." Ken Take Page. May 5, 2016.

    • Chicago Defender: Founded in 1905, the Chicago Defender celebrated its 115th Anniversary in 2020. It was recognized nationally as the 2nd most widely read African-American newspaper by Nielson and Essence Survey 2014.
    • Ebony: Since 1945, Ebony magazine has shined a spotlight on the worlds of Black people in America and worldwide.
    • EssenceEssence is the premiere lifestyle, fashion and beauty magazine for African-American women. The first issue of Essence hit the newsstands in May 1970, with a circulation of 50,000. Essence is available in the library's collection.
    • The Obsidian Collection: The Obsidian Collection is a user-friendly, virtual portal for African American culture providing access to material of historical, artistic and cultural significance gathered from around the country.
    • The Unwritten Record (National Archives): The Unwritten Record is the National Archives and Records Administration’s blog dedicated to special media holdings.

    Mental Health Resources