The Freedom Train of 1947

By Joe Lowry
Edited by Trish Gully

The Freedom Train of November 1947 was another missed opportunity for all Memphians to visit and see something wonderful; all because of the Edward Hull Crump administration.  Working though his minion, the Mayor James Pleasants vehemently opposed whites and blacks mingling together. Segregation was always at the forefront of everything the Crump administration did.

Two Red White and Blue Freedom trains,  which carried the original versions of the United States ConstitutionDeclaration of Independence, the Truman Doctrine, and the Bill of Rights on its tour of more than 300 cities in all 48 states   This was just about the biggest thing going between 1947 and 1949. The Freedom Train was integrated.  This train went to all 48 states and stopped in most cities, except for Memphis, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama. The powers to be did not want blacks and whites to stand together as Americans. 400 Black Memphians drove to Jackson Tennessee so their children could see the exhibit, and another several hundred went to Nashville. These parents made personal safety and financial sacrifices because highway travel was not easy.

Our Mayor, James Pleasants was in his position because of Crump and as usual Crump was pulling the strings and calling the shots.  He did this with every politician, judge, attorney general, government worker, and within his personal staff.   

We wonder why we have such issues in or city; here is the main reason – this administration was one of the biggest proponents of segregation in the south. Everything was racially segregated; restaurants, schools, busses, libraries, the fairgrounds, the zoo, all public institutions, even the right to visit Santa Clause at Christmas time was regulated.  

An article in the Commercial Appeal, November 20, 1947 reads: “The action of the local authorities outrages the sense of fair play, sets Memphis apart as a city where freedom cannot literally show its head, and withholds from its citizens events historical and inspirational, that can never be offered again.”  Local veterans spoke out in protest.  Once again this was in every newspaper in the country over a period of many days and we were once again the laughingstock of the U.S.  The train was scheduled to stop here on July 1948 which it never did.

This story is a story worth researching. For further reading, here are some suggested sites:

Great pictures included: 

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