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​Awards earned by A Massacre in Memphis:

  • Best Director, Documentary, Women in Film, Austin Indiefest, 2018.

  • Official Selection, Southern Shorts Film Festival 2018.

  • Award of Excellence, Cinematography, Documentary, Southern Shorts Film Festival 2018.

  • Award of Excellence, Documentary, Best Shorts Competition, Fall 2018.

  • Finalist for Humanitarian Award, Best Shorts Competition, 2018.

Our Film: A note from the Director


The history of white violence against black people in the American South has been denied,
obscured, minimized, distorted, and dismissed for too long. It can be traced back to slavery, a
system of captive, coercive labor that was enforced by violence or by the threat of violence, as
well as by the dearth of legal protections for enslaved people. Slaveholders’ dominion over black
bodies went unleavened by checks and balances; perpetrators of violence against enslaved people
rarely were held accountable. Slavery established a pattern of white terror against black folk that
continued even after Emancipation. Indeed, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has identified 4,084
racial terror lynchings in twelve Southern states between 1877 and 1950. The Memphis Massacre
of 1866 was a terrifying harbinger of this post-Emancipation violence.

The purpose of this film is to make such acts of domestic terrorism visible; to parse their origins
and dimensions so they become unmistakable in our collective past. Long miscast as a “Negro
riot,” or “race riot,” the Memphis Massacre was neither. It was not perpetrated by African
American people against each other; nor was there any violence or destruction directed by black
Memphians against their white neighbors. Rather, it was a white mob that committed predatory
acts of violence against black residents for three days straight. Gangs of white men murdered and
beat black civilians and soldiers; raped and molested black women and children; looted, pillaged,
and burnt black homes, businesses, schools and churches.

The evidence for this violence is overwhelming. Over 300 pages of firsthand testimony from
witnesses and survivors have surfaced in the historical record. The narratives come from men,
women, African-American, white, working and middle class, officials and civilians, soldiers and
police. Why has it taken us so long to remember? Our film explores not only what led to the
violence, but also why the Memphis Massacre of 1866 was erased from public memory for
nearly 150 years.

Wise men and women say that the first step toward healing is to face the truth. We hope this film
invites Americans to reexamine our shared past, to acknowledge the injustice and trauma of
white supremacist terror, and to envision a future in which it never happens again.

-Dee Garceau 


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