Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers. Memphis is the youngest of Tennessee's major cities. Memphis was founded in 1819 by John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson. The city was named after the ancient capital of Egypt on the Nile River. Memphis developed as a transportation center in the 19th century because of its flood-free location, high above the Mississippi River. As the cotton economy of the antebellum South depended on the forced labor of large numbers of African-American slaves, Memphis became a major slave market. In 1857, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was completed, the only east-west railroad across the southern states prior to the Civil War. Tennessee seceded from the Union in June 1861, and Memphis briefly became a Confederate stronghold. Union ironclad gunboats captured the city in the naval Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862, and the city remained under Union control for the duration of the war. Memphis became a Union supply base and continued to prosper throughout the war. Meanwhile, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest harassed Union forces in the area. In the 1870s, a series of yellow fever epidemics devastated Memphis. The worst outbreak, in 1878, reduced the population by nearly 75% as many people died or fled the city permanently. Property tax revenues collapsed, and the city could not make payments on its municipal debts. As a result, Memphis temporarily lost its city charter and was a taxing district from 1878–1893. The city was rechartered in 1893. Memphis grew into the world's largest spot cotton market and the world's largest hardwood lumber market. Into the 1950s, it was the world's largest mule market. During the 1960s, the city was at the center of civil rights issues, notably a sanitation workers' strike. The Lorraine Motel in the city was also the venue of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. Memphis is well known for its cultural contributions to the identity of the American South. Many renowned musicians grew up in and around Memphis and moved from the Mississippi Delta.
The Memphis blues is a style of blues music that was created in the 1910s – 1930s by Memphis-area musicians like Frank Stokes, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis and Memphis Minnie. The style was popular in vaudeville and medicine shows, and was associated with Memphis' main entertainment area, Beale Street. W.C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues" published The Memphis Blues. In lyrics, the phrase is often used to describe a depressed mood. Memphis played an important role in the development of electric blues, rock and roll, blues rock, and heavy metal music.
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