Memphis is the place to be when it comes to honoring and observing the contributions of Black Americans to this city, the nation and the world. Memphis has a rich history where blacks are concerned. Taking a walking tour of downtown, you can walk the areas from where black slaves were auctioned, to Historic Beale street, and on to the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was slain. Through an abundance of events in the month of February, Memphis will embrace Black History Month.
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, formed in 1959, is legendary for launching the careers of Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Luther Ingram, Albert King, the Bar-Kays, Booker T. & the MG’s, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus and Carla Thomas. The Stax Museum is currently displaying a tribute to Otis Redding, “Otis Redding: From Macon to Memphis.’ The items are on loan from the private collection of his widow, Zelma Redding. The exhibit began on December 10, 2008 and will continue until April 2009. The Stax museum is located at 926 E. McLemore Ave.
The Memphis Grizzlies Basketball team will honor the Memphis State Eight, during the Grizzlies vs. Pacers game on Saturday, February 3. These individuals are the first African American students to integrate the University of Memphis, which was then, Memphis State, in 1959. They are: Rose Blakney-Love, Sammie Burnett-Johnson, Eleanor Gandy, Marvis LaVerne Kneeland Jones, Bertha Rogers Looney, Luther McClellan, Ralph Prater and John Simpson. The game will take place in the Fedex Forum in downtown Memphis.
On Friday, Feb. 1, the University of Memphis will launch a month-long schedule of events in observation of Black History Month:
Monday, Feb. 2, Black History Month Opening Ceremony and Lifetime Achievement Award, 7 p.m., Rose Theatre Auditorium;
Wednesday, Feb. 4, GAAH Black History Film Festival #1, 6 p.m., Mitchell Hall, 325;
Friday, Feb. 6, Black History Month Gospel Explosion, 7 p.m., Rose Theater Auditorium;
Saturday, Feb. 7, The Black Student Association Prayer Breakfast, 9 a.m., Panhellenic Building 115;
Wednesday, Feb. 11, GAAH Black History Film Festival #2, 6 p.m., Mitchell Hall, 325;
Thursday, Feb. 12, The NAACP College Chapter – 100 yr. Celebration , 1 p.m., Panhellenic Building;
Thursday, Feb. 12, Black History Month Comedy Show, 7 p.m., Rose Theatre;
Wednesday, Feb. 18, GAAH Black History Film Festival #3, 6 p.m., Mitchell Hall, 325;
Tuesday, Feb. 24, Black History Month Knowledge Bowl , 7 p.m.., Panhellenic Building 115;
Wednesday, Feb. 25, GAAH Black History Film Festival #4, 6 p.m., Mitchell Hall, 325;
Friday, Feb. 27, Black History Month Closing Ceremony, 1 p.m., Rose Theatre.
The Hattiloo Theatre will present “The Colored Museum,” written by George C. Wolfe, a satirical comedy, depicting the exaggerated images and stereotypes of black life in the 1980’s. The play will open on January 29 and run until February 15. Tickets range from $12 – $18.
Memphis Botanic Garden, located at 750 Cherry Road, will host a Black History Month Art Exhibit, beginning on February 1 – February 28. The exhibit features artwork by local African American artists. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Garden’s education and horticultural programs. Tickets are: $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children 3 – 12; children 2 and under admitted free.
On Thursday, February 12 at 7 p.m., The Memphis Theological Seminary’s 2009 Barbara A. Holmes Lectures in African American Studies will feature speaker, Cornel West. Dr. West is a reknown scholar, philosopher, critic, pastor, civil rights activist, and professor at Princeton University. The event will take place at Lake Grove Missionary Baptist Church, at 265 Leath Street at Poplar Avenue. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Germantown Performing Arts Centre, at 1801 Exeter in Germantown, Tennessee, will present the Peanut Butter & Jam’s African Drum & Dance on February 14 at 9:30 am. The performance will display a wide variety of instruments for young children ages 3 to 8. Tickets are $9.50.
On Sunday, February 15, at 7 pm, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, located at 60 Perkins Ext. will present the Grammy award winning world music group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The group will represent the traditional customs of South Africa through song. Ticket are $35.
The Memphis Theological Seminary will celebrate the life of Henry Logan Starks by hosting the ‘2009 Henry Logan Starks Scholarship Dinner’ on Thursday, February 29 at 7:00 at the Holiday Inn – University of Memphis. Dr. Starks is one of six of the first African American students at the Seminary. He is also the school’s first African American Professor. Among those honored will be The 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers.
Not just during Black History Month, guests can explore the Slavehaven Underground Railroad Museum, at the Burkle mansion, located at 826 N. Second St. Guests travel through a secret cellar and trap doors that reveal the escape route of runaway slaves who would hide for days and sometimes months to be lead to waiting boats on the Mississippi River and taken to the Ohio River to Illinois, a free state. Admission $6 adults, $4 students
The doors of the National Civil Rights Museum are also open year round. Guests can view many photographs and exhibits illustrating the Civil Rights era. The most popular, being the two rooms, 306 & 307, where Martin Luther King stayed and the balcony upon which he was slain. The National Civil Rights Museum is located in what use to be the Lorraine Hotel at 450 Mulberry Street on the South end of Downtown Memphis.
Whether you are a resident of Memphis or just passing through, you won’t find it hard to find ways to celebrate the triumphs and achievements of Black Americans during Black History Month.