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Memphis is a city in Shelby County, Tennessee, United States, located along the Mississippi River. It has a population of 633,104 people in 2020, making it Tennessee’s second-most populous city behind Nashville, the country’s 28th-biggest city and the Mississippi River’s largest city proper. With a population of 1,348,260 people in 2017, Greater Memphis is the 42nd-largest metropolitan region in the United States. West Tennessee and the wider Mid-South region, which encompasses parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, and the Missouri Bootheel, are anchored by the city. Shelby County, Tennessee’s most populous county, is headquartered in Memphis. Memphis is one of the southern United States’ most historic and culturally significant cities, with diverse geography and different neighborhoods.
With his trip into the New World in 1541, Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto was the first European explorer to discover the area of modern-day Memphis. As Memphis grew, the Spanish, French, and English fought for the high Chickasaw Bluffs that protected the area from the Mississippi’s floods. Three notable Americans, John Overton, James Winchester, and future president Andrew Jackson, built modern Memphis in 1819.
As a market for agricultural goods, natural resources such as lumber, and the American slave trade, Memphis evolved to be one of the greatest cities in the Antebellum South. After the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the city grew even faster in the twentieth century, becoming one of the world’s major cotton and lumber marketplaces.
Memphis, Tennessee’s most populous African-American city, played a key part in the American civil rights movement and was the location of Martin Luther King Jr.’s killing in 1968. The National Civil Rights Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, is presently located in the city. Memphis has grown into one of the nation’s main business cities in transportation and logistics since the civil rights movement. The multinational courier firm FedEx, which has its global air hub at Memphis International Airport, making it the busiest cargo airport in the world, is the city’s largest employer. Despite its inland location, the International Port of Memphis hosts the fifth-busiest inland water port in the United States, with access to the Mississippi River allowing shipments to arrive from all over the world for conversion to train and trucking transportation throughout the United States, making Memphis a multi-modal hub for trading goods for imports and exports.
Memphis is a regional economic, educational, media, artistic, and entertainment center. It has long had a thriving music culture, with historic live music blues clubs on Beale Street laying the groundwork for the distinctive Memphis blues sound in the early twentieth century. A global mix of influences has continued to form the city’s music: blues, country, rock & roll, soul, and hip-hop. And of course, who could forget Elvis Presley. Memphis-style barbecue has gained international acclaim, and the city yearly stages the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which draws over 100,000 visitors. Memphis is also home to world class University of Memphis. South Memphis. North Memphis. Bluff City.
Barbecue is a Memphis Tennessee specialty.
Barbecue became a successful business venture in Memphis after WWII. Small restaurants known as “joints” began to open, each with a dedicated pit for slow-cooking the meat.
Payne’s, Leonard’s, and Interstate, for example, are modest neighborhood establishments in low-income communities that exemplify the roots of Memphis barbecue. Tops, Neely’s, and Corky’s are just a few of the regional franchises that have sprung up in Memphis.
Restaurants like The Rendezvous began shipping orders overnight to consumers as Memphis-style barbecue became more popular across the country.
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous was started in a back alley of Downtown Memphis by Charlie Vergos in 1948. Vergos uncovered a coal chute in the basement of his café and transformed it into a barbeque pit. Vergos eventually transformed his eatery into a BBQ joint and relocated the entrance from the street to an alley.
Due to its more than sixty years of existence and “hole-in-the-wall” ambience, Rendezvous is one of Memphis’ oldest and most legendary barbecue joints. The alley where Rendezvous is located has been renamed “Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous Alley” by the Memphis City Council, however the address remains 52 South 2nd Street.
A BBQ shrimp skillet is one of Rendezvous’ hallmark meals, and it must be requested a full day in advance. The Rendezvous can ship it’s famous barbecue all over the world via it’s partnership with FedEx.
Geography of Memphis Metro Area
The city’s center geographic location has been beneficial to its economic growth. Memphis is perfectly positioned for business in the transportation and shipping industries, as it is located on the Mississippi River and intersected by five major freight railroads and two Interstate Highways, I-40 and I-55. With steamboats plying the Mississippi River, its early development was aided by its water access. The construction of railroads improved the city’s access to markets on the east and west coasts.
Highways and interstates have been important transportation arteries since the second half of the twentieth century. I-69, a third interstate, is now being built, while I-22, a fourth, was just allocated from the previous High Priority Corridor X. Unloading river barges onto trucks and railroads. Memphis International Airport, which will surpass Hong Kong International Airport in 2021 as the world’s busiest cargo airport, is located in the city. Memphis International Airport is the principal shipping center for FedEx Express.
Allenberg Cotton, American Residential Services (also known as ARS/Rescue Rooter); Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz; Cargill Cotton, City Gear, First Horizon National Corporation, Fred’s, GTx, Lenny’s Sub Shop, Mid-America Apartments, Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, ServiceMaster, True Temper Sports, Varsity Brands, and Verso Paper are among the major corporations based in Memphis. Gibson guitars (headquartered in Nashville) and Smith & Nephew are two companies with large operations in Memphis.
Memphis is home to a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Memphis has recently attracted the attention of the entertainment and film sectors. Making the Grade (1984), Elvis and Me (1988), Great Balls of Fire! (1988), Heart of Dixie (1989), Mystery Train (1989), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Trespass (1992), The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (1992), The Firm (1993), The Delta (1996), The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996), The Rainmaker (1997), and The Rainmaker (1997) were among the major motion pictures filmed in Memphis, with the Memphis & Shelby (2011). The Blind Side (2009) was filmed in Atlanta but was set in Memphis.