Sunday, November 9, 2008

Memphis' contraband camps

A few years ago, I learned that my great-great grandfather, Daniel Walker Williams, had lived on President's Island for about twenty years. At the time, I had just begun researching his life and our family's history in Memphis, so I also then knew little of President's Island. I learned of his residence there after finding a Freedman's Bank record on which this residence was listed. Since then, I am aware that the contraband camp, Camp Dixie, was located on the island, and that many black men moved from there to Fort Pickering, where they were mustered into the United States Colored Troops. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to uncovering the history of black neighborhoods in Memphis. It saddens me that so little has been written of this history and that the city has not marked the site, to my knowledge. This is a task which I have given myself, and I hope that there are other interested persons out there.