Tennessee Adds New US Civil Rights Trail Sites

Coinciding with the arrival of Black History Month, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD) and Travel South today announced the expansion of its portion of the US Civil Rights Trail. Two new sites are being added: Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) and Memphis’ Stax Museum of American Soul Music, both of which honor the profound impact and lasting legacy of Black American music, for a total of 14 trail stops in Tennessee.

“What happened in Tennessee changed the world and, through the power of music of the movement, visitors can learn about that legacy at world-class destinations like Stax and NMAAM,” said Mark Ezell, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Secretary /Treasurer of the US Civil Rights Trail Marketing Alliance. “Visitors can walk in the footsteps of the brave men and women who stood up for equal rights. Our state’s history and heritage shine a light on the triumphant and impactful stories at these destinations.”


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Having just passed its one-year anniversary, the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville is the only museum dedicated to, “preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of the many music genres created, influenced or inspired by African Americans,” according to its website. The historical narrative is combined with interactive technologies to bring the musical heroes of the past to life.

NMAAM’s ‘One Nation Under a Groove’ gallery documents the history of the rhythm and blues (R&B) genre following World War II, which would give rise to even more forms of American music. It also explores the ways in which music’s changing forms and the artists themselves helped inspire the Civil Rights Movement, and evolved to reflect social issues of the era.

“From the covert messages embedded in ‘Wade in the Water’ to the stirring melodies of ‘What’s Going On’, African American music has provided the soundtrack for Civil Rights Movements in the United States,” says H. Beecher Hicks, President, and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music. “We are proud to continue our work in preserving and celebrating African Americans’ contributions and influence on the American Soundtrack.”

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis is situated on the original site of Stax Records studio, which was one of the most popular soul music record labels of all time. The museum pays particular homage to the artists who recorded there, many of whom had roots in the surrounding neighborhood, churches and schools. From its start in the 1960s, the studio was focused on creating its own unique sound, running a racially integrated operation during a time when segregation was avidly supported in the South. Stax became the country’s fifth-largest African American-owned business in its time, and was the most successful record label ever born in Memphis.

National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee. (photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development)

Stax today released its second annual Virtual Black History Month Tour, which is available for educators and students around the world to access online at no cost. “Our launch of the Stax Museum’s Virtual Black History Month Tour couldn’t be more in line with the announcement that the museum is now being added as an iconic location on the US Civil Rights Trail,” said Stax Museum Executive Director Jeff Kollath.

“More than just a label that recorded some of the most indelible, timeless music in history, Stax Records provided a company culture that was inclusive, and where people of all races and genders worked together like family at a time of extreme racism and sexism in the United States, and particularly in Memphis and the South,” he continued. “Both our new status on the US Civil Rights Trail and the launch of our Virtual Black History Month tour reflect that rich history, and how it still applies to current events .”

For more information, visit tncivilrighttrail.com.


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