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Historical marker for Memphis Martyrs.

Yellow Fever Martyrs Memorial and Mass Grave

Field review by the editors.

Memphis, Tennessee

5,150 people died in the Memphis Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, and many of them were formerly healthy people who had stayed to help the sick until succumbing themselves. The city buried 1,500 of its dead in a mass grave on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi -- and pretty much forgot about them until January 3, 1971, when the grave site became Martyrs Park and the Yellow Fever Martyrs Memorial became its centerpiece.

A plaque at the memorial's base extols "the heroes and heroines of Memphis... who gave their lives serving the victims of Yellow Fever" and notes that the epidemic "devastated the city, leaving few survivors."

Yellow Fever Martyrs Memorial.

The memorial itself is a set of twin, tall pillars that frame black, wraithlike humanoids floating heavenward. Are they the corrupted bodies of Yellow Fever Martyrs? Or just typical dreary public art of the early 1970s? The Yellow Fever Martyrs Memorial was designed by Harris Sorrelle, who at the time was the head of the University of Memphis' sculpture department.

Yellow Fever Martyrs Memorial and Mass Grave

Martyrs Park

Channel 3 Drive, Memphis, TN
In Martyrs Park atop the Chickasaw Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. From S. Riverside Drive turn west onto Channel 3 Drive, then turn right at the sign into Martyrs Park.
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