BC: The history of African Americans in Memphis is long and deep. Beale St. and its surrounding areas has many markers documenting the history of African Americans. Explore the ones mentioned here or find more of your own!
FC: African American Tour of Beale St. and Surrounding Areas
1: A good place to start any African-American Heritage Tour of Memphis is the Beale St. Area
2: Music is a big part of the African American experience and the history of Memphis. W.C. Handy, the father of the Blues, lived near Beale St. His home is now a museum (opp. pg, bottom). The Daisy Theater (opp. pg, top) was a prime performing venue for Blacks throughout the early to mid 20th century. | WLOK first Memphis radio station owned by African-Americans
4: Entrance to Robert Church Park Auditorium (right) | Bust of Robert Church (below) | Memphis had a number of prominent Black citizens. Robert Church Sr.,the nation's first black millionaire, was a Memphian | Plaque commemorating the many contributions of Robert Church to Memphis (above) | The park is located near 4th and Beale St.
5: Churches were and continue to be an important part of Black life. They served as critical meeting places during the civil rights movement. Beale St. Baptist Church (above left) was the first brick constructed multistory church in the US built by African Americans for African Americans. The Solvent Savings Bank located at 392 Beale St across the street from the church supported the many Black owned business of nearby Beale Street. It also has a history with Beale St. baptist Church saving it from closure in 1908 by paying off its note.
6: The little white unsuspecting house above is suspected of being a much-used Underground Railroad station. The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe house used to help black slaves to escape to the North and Canada before the Civil War. The Burkle Estate is now a museum located at 826 N. Second St. | From Slavery to Freedom
7: The end of the Civil War meant freedom for blacks but not equality. Ida B. Wells was a a journalist, and civil and women’s rights advocate. Wells' newspaper building was located in the 300 block of Beale before it was burned to the ground in response to her advocacy. She ,as well as many others unnamed, fought for the oppressed long before the era we think of as civil rights. | Fighting Injustice
8: Martin Luther King, Jr., a person synonymous with the civil rights movement of the 60s, was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. The wreath marks where he was when he was shot.
9: Although Dr. King was not around to witness it, Memphis did make great strides with regard to Civil Rights and political equality for African Americans. In 1974, Memphians elected Harold Ford, Sr. to US Congress as the first black elected national official in Tennessee. In 1991, Memphis elected its first African American Mayor, Dr. W.W. Herenton.