In the barbeque joints and plate lunch cafes off MemphisÂ’s Front Street, one is easily reminded of the days when cotton was king, of a society of characters and cads; the big time and the small time; the rich and the richer; the hangers-on, anointed, powerful, and busted. Cotton created empires in agriculture, transportation, banking, and warehousing. It also shackled the dreams and lives of those born into slavery and sharecropping. Although many of the day-to-day dealings have moved to manicured office parks and high-rise buildings, cottonÂ’s influence still remains at the core of the Southern economy and Southern society.
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