Commemorating Black History Month

Published 5:02 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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The rich culture and history of Black Americans is woven throughout our state, from the big cities to small towns. From east to middle to west, the state boasts dozens of attractions and festivals that showcase the impact African American residents have had on music, food, art and events that changed the world. From inspiring legacy stories of the past to how Black residents are shaping the future, discover 10 ways to celebrate Black History Month this February in Tennessee.

  1. Explore The National Civil Rights Museum

The world-renowned National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is built around the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968. It is a true deep-dive, with 260 artifacts, more than 40 films, oral histories, interactive media and external listening posts that guide visitors through five centuries of history. It takes us on a tour from the beginning of the resistance during slavery, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, and the seminal events of the late 20th century that inspired people around the world to stand up for equality.

  1. Find Your Tennessee Spirit

The fastest growing American whiskey in U.S. history, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey in Shelbyville features the creations of the world’s first-known African American master distiller, Nearest Green. The world is taking notice: her ultra-premium whiskeys have garnered over 450 awards and accolades since the brand’s 2017 launch. Visit the distillery for a tour (offered Thursdays through Sundays), sample some of Uncle Nearest’s best and purchase a bottle of the award-winning Master Blend Edition, only available at the distillery.

  1. Stitch The Seams Of The Past Together

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The rich tradition of African American church quilts is on display in Giles County. The Looking Back on our Heeritage Quilting Club has painstakingly researched and created four “church quilts” immortalizing the region’s African American churches in stitches and fabric. The Wolf Gap cultural center is displaying two of these quilts at a time, rotating them every few months, and highlighting the histories of the churches featured on the quilts. Made with care and incredible detail, these quilts are a fascinating piece of Tennessee’s Black history.

  1. Cross Helen’s Off Your BBQ Bucket List

You may think you know BBQ. But you haven’t lived until you’ve been to Helen’s Bar-B-Q in Brownsville. Just follow the woody smoke to rural West Tennessee where you’ll find the beloved (and world-renowned) restaurant’s namesake, Helen Turner, laboring over juicy pork shoulder. She holds her own as one of the nation’s few female pit master cooks. See the process then taste the product with a succulent pork sandwich or ribs that will make you want to lick the plate clean.

  1. Get Schooled In Black Music

Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music is the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the music genres that were created, inspired or influenced by African Americans. With interactive exhibits, including a sound booth where you can test your own musical talents, the museum brings to life the music legends of past and present. Want to get even more into the swing of things? The Nashville Jazz Workshop offers a wide array of classes for all levels of experience, from experts to novices. You don’t even have to be a musician. Fascinating courses like the “Nina Simone Listening Class” or “The Music of New Orleans” are designed to give students of all ages a deeper appreciation of jazz — America’s greatest gift to the world.

  1. Taste Chef Tam’s Diverse Flavors

Tamra Patterson — AKA Chef Tam — has made quite an impact on Memphis since moving to the Bluff City a few years back. At Chef Tam’s Underground Cafe in the historic Cooper-Young neighborhood, she has earned legions of fans for her playful versions of recipes that frequently come to her in dreams. Savor dishes like collard green pizza, fried ribs or peach cobbler nachos, and you’ll understand the creative strokes of genius that have made Chef Tam a frequent contestant on television cooking shows.

  1. Ride The Underground Railroad

In the mid-1800s, the Underground Railroad helped countless individuals find freedom. In Memphis, Tennessee’s largest slave-trading city, many enslaved people were aided by abolitionists in their escapes. One such abolitionist was Jacob Burkle, a German immigrant who owned a stockyard and is thought to have operated an Underground Railroad way station in Memphis. Step inside Burkle’s home at Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum  and even descend into the dark cellar with its trapdoors and hidden passages.

  1. Hear The Soul of Stax

These walls don’t talk — they sing! Experience the story of Stax Records, one of the most famous recording studios in the world, through interactive exhibitions and artifacts at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, celebrating its 20th year in 2023. The museum shares how creative individuals came together to write, record and produce some of the greatest soul music of all time, from Otis Redding to Booker T. and the M.G.’s to Wilson Pickett.

  1. Uncover Clarksville’s African American Legacy

Clarksville’s African American Legacy Trail includes 24 stops at locations throughout Clarksville. From community gardens and historic churches to athletic, musical and business trailblazers — even an inspiring Olympic Champion — Clarksville is proud of this rich history. As the proud home of Wilma Rudolph, several of the stops focus on her story. Rudolph was the first woman from the United States to receive three gold medals in a single Olympic Game at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

  1. Learn The Story Of The Clinton 12

In 1956, 12 students became the first to integrate a previously all-white school in Tennessee. Hear impactful stories from members of the Clinton 12 and how that legacy is told at Green McAdoo Cultural Center. On August 20, 1956, 12 Black students registered for school without incident, and it appeared it would happen peacefully. However, by that weekend, outside agitators showed up. Hear the inspiring story of how the town stood up against the rioters.