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10 Places to Celebrate Black History Year-Round in Tennessee

Friday, Feb 02, 2024

Tennessee has 14 locations along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The state is home to famous writers, music legends and talented photographers. Learn their stories at these 10 places to celebrate Black history year-round in Tennessee.The Bessie Smith Cultural Center, founded by empowering visionary leaders from Chattanooga, pays homage to the late “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith. The center preserves and celebrates African American history and culture through art, education, research and entertainment. The new exhibit “Chattanooga’s Black Soundtrack” highlights local artists, like Usher Kane Brown and The Impressions. Visit black-owned businesses and restaurants in Chattanooga.The Beck Cultural Exchange Center is a historic community treasure dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting artifacts and evidence of contributions relating to history and culture of African Americans in East Tennessee and America. The center creates immersive educational experiences to promote learning for present and future generations. From arts and culture to attractions, restaurants, breweries and businesses, here are additional ways to celebrate Black history in Knoxville.Learn about the courageous stories of the Clinton 12, who bravely fought for equal access to education. Green McAdoo Cultural Center shares thelegacy of what happened in 1956 and how it shaped the students and the community. Step inside a 1950s classroom and follow the chronological story of desegregation at Clinton High School, the first integration of a public high school in the South, with life-size photographs and narratives. Listen to stories from the students in episode three of the TN Civil Rights Trail podcast. Travel Tennessee’s stops on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. An unlikely friendship created maybe the greatest story you’ve never heard, told at Nearest Green Distillery. Tour the distillery and taste Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which honors the world’s first-known African American master distiller, Nearest Green, who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. Be sure to stay for local cuisine, Sunday Brunch or a cocktail at Humble Baron, the world’s longest bar, where everyone has a seat at the table.Ruby’s Happy Farm was built on family legacy land and named after the family matriarch. Ashley Brooks is the third generation of her family to farm this land and opened the property to the community in the inaugural Juneteenth Festival. 2024’s event, “Ruby’s Happy Farm Feel Good Festival,” is slated for June 22, 2024 and will include vendors, entertainment and presentations on agriculture, history and wellness, including beekeeping, self-care, small farm operations and a history of Juneteenth.The McLemore House, purchased by former enslaved man Harvey McLemore in 1880, was a model of community development in Hard Bargain, the first African American middle-class neighborhood in Franklin consisting of carpenters, teachers, masons and farmers. The house is now a museum promoting cultural and historical preservation, celebrating the rich African American heritage of Franklin and Williamson County. The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) in the heart of Music City is the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the music genres created, inspired or influenced by African Americans. Interactive exhibits allow guests to write a blues song, sing with a gospel choir, learn dances, do a rap battle and learn about jazz, blues, rap, pop and stories of renowned artists like Isaac Hayes, Beyonce, Rihanna, Prince and others. NMAAM is located in Fifth + Broadway, where travelers should also get a taste of Slim & Husky’s, an artisan pizza shop with a love for hip hop R&B culture. Here are ways to explore Black history in Nashville.Experience the story of Stax Records, one of the most famous recording studios in the world, through interactive exhibits, artifacts and hall of records at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The museum shares how creative individuals came together to write, record and produce some of the best soul music in Memphis. Separately, the Museum of Science & History (MoSH) has a new exhibit, Everyday People: Snapshots of the Black Experience, a photography journey showcasing Memphis artist Eric Echols’ photo collection of twentieth century African Americans and Black culture. From attractions to restaurants to local businesses, here are additional trip ideas to celebrate Black history in Memphis.The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tina Turner, was born in Nutbush, made famous with her hit song, “Nutbush City Limits.” Turner attended school in a one-room schoolhouse in Brownsville, one of the first schools built in the South for African Americans. Visitors to the Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School, located on the grounds of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, explores the largest known collection of Tina memorabilia, costumes and stories. While visiting Brownsville, savor local favorite Black-owned business, Helen’s Bar BQ, where Helen Turner works as one of the few female pitmasters in the country. The childhood home of author Alex Haley, who wrote the groundbreaking novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, is located in Henning. “Roots,” which was made into a landmark TV miniseries in 1977, was inspired by family stories young Alex heard on the porch of his home. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center’s exhibits feature Haley’s work, childhood memorabilia and references to people who inspired the characters in “Roots.” Launching in February 2024, The Virtual Black History Month Tour in Historic Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, is an interactive, app-based tour starts at the Jonesborough Visitors Center and takes guests on a walk up East Main Street and down West Main Street. Along the way, guests stop at spots in town that are pivotal to the history of the Black community and to the history of Jonesborough.Visit TNvacation.com and follow @TNvacation on social media for travel inspiration.