The African American journey and experience through history tells the story of kings, queens, architects, mathematicians, sons and daughters who were enslaved for hundreds of years, forced to fight for their freedom and rebuild a land for themselves upon grounds where they would remain treated unequally and unwanted.
Memphis stands as a hub of some of the prominent African American figures in history and their accomplishments that have helped to shape our nation.
We took time to immerse in this rich history pulsing through Memphis’ veins by visiting various landmarks touched by the hands of some of the most influential people in Black history and created a list of our top 10 experiences.
On the corner of Beale Street and S. Front Street, Memphis Heritage Trail is a project with a mission of recognizing and celebrating the contributions and achievements of African Americans in Memphis, geographically highlighted some of the top spots to celebrate Black History in the “Historical District.”
With this map (and conveniently placed scooters) you’ll be left with no excuse to get started with your journey today!
Location: 349 Beale Street Memphis, TN 38103
Hours of Operation: 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week!
The African American journey is often misrepresented, with origins beginning with slavery. On the contrary, African Americans originate from kings and queens, pyramids, and flourishing lands in their ancestors’ motherland, Africa, and The African Place, assures that this story is told.
From African artifacts, traditional headwear, and natural healing products like shea butter to conscious books and apparel that encourage self-love, this store is currently the largest African import store in the Mid-South.
They continue to promote the image of a strong and resilient people, born of kings and queens with a promising future on grounds in which legends have paved the way.
Location: 581 N 3rd St. Memphis, TN 38105
Hours of Operation: Mon.- Sat. 10 AM – 7PM; Sun. 12 PM – 6 PM
The courageous endeavors of thousands of fugitive slaves during the Antebellum period are so unimaginably fearless, that there is no way to ever completely grasp what they endured. Slave Haven is the closest you will get to understanding the trials a fugitive slaves running toward freedom.
The house of abolitionist, Jacob Burkle, now serves as an interactive tour through the journey of a fugitive slave, seeking refuge in the North. This tour evoked so many mixed emotions in us that we left without a dry eye, yet a sense of satisfaction for the hundred of slaves who fought for their freedom, right from the doorsteps of this Memphis home.
This unforgettable tour, lead by knowledgeable and engaging tour guides, is a Memphis must-do!
Location: 826 N 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38107
Hours of Operation: Mon. – Sat. 10 AM – 4 PM
Nestled right beside the Mississippi River and often packed with Memphians eager to enjoy the beautiful view of the Memphis bridge or the annual World Champion Barbecue Contest, Tom Lee Park serves as a much-deserved memorial dedicated to hero, Tom Lee.
In 1925, 39-year-old river worker, Tom Lee personally saved 32 passengers dumped by an overturned steamer boat–no life coat, fully clothed, no prior swimming experience, just pure determination.
In the park, you can stop to learn more of this story through the city’s memorial and the infamous David Alan Clark monument depicting Tom Lee’s heroism.
Location: Riverside Dr, Memphis, TN 38103
Hours of Operation: Sun. – Sat. 6 AM – 8 PM
Every day, tourists and Memphis residents alike gather to see the only comprehensive Civil Rights exhibit in Tennessee.
Located at the historic Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated, the National Civil Rights Museum serves as not only a tour but as a safe place to learn the ends and outs of the Civil Rights movement from slavery until the present while evoking questions and creating conversations that can lead to the future success of the nation and its future leaders.
Location: 450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103
Hours of Operation: Mon. – Sun. 9 AM – 5 PM; Closed Tuesdays
After hours of immersing, we stopped for lunch and decided to eat like a king–Dr. King of course!
The Four-Way Restaurant, a Soulsville icon, serves hundreds of belly-warming, taste bud dancing soul food dishes Tuesdays through Sundays. Aside from the deliciousness (which we’re still salivating over), you’ll be welcomed with warm hospitality and a submersed into a history of the fight for equality upon African Americans.
Although there is not much information regarding Dr. King actually eating at the Four Way, many Civil Rights meetings were held in the seats of this very restaurant.
Location: 998 Mississippi Blvd, Memphis, TN 38126
Hours of Operation: Tue. – Sun. 11 AM- 6 PM
On the outside, it may look like any other church, but on the inside lies the roots that became a legendary sanctuary of self-expression. First Baptist Beale Street Church opened its doors as the first and largest Black Missionary Church soon after the Civil War.
While these accolades were being praised on the main floor, other miracles were being made in its basement.
In the 1890s Ida B. Wells published one of the first newspapers geared specifically toward an African American audience, Free Speech and Headline newspaper, from the church’s basement. Her publications have become Black literary bibles in the world of Civil rights and freedom of speech.
Guided tours of the church are led upon request by contacting the church office (901-522-9073) and leaving a message for a private tour.
Location: 379 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103
Hours of Operation: Contact church office (901)-522-9073
Three words that echoed through the streets of Memphis for years to come. I AM A MAN Plaza, located next to the historic Clayborn Temple, artistically depicts one of the largest strikes in Civil Rights History.
In March 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers, supported by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., rallied to fight for higher wages and better working conditions, chanting the impactful statement “I AM A MAN.”
Led by local landscape artist, John Jackson and featuring work by local poet, Steve Fox, this beautiful sculpture will leave its spectators feeling empowered and connected to the many men whose contributions serve as impactful forces during the Civil Rights movement.
Location: Hernando St, Memphis, TN 38126
Hours of Operation: 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week!
If Memphis has got anything, its got Soul! There are hundreds of hands that have planted seeds in Memphis’ soul influence.
The Stax Museum displays thousands of cultural artifacts and recognizes musicians who have gained national recognition after finding their music origins in Stax Records, a little recording studio during the Civil Rights Movement.
Today, the museum features interactive exhibits, guided tours, and events that pay homage to music legends and promote the education and continuation of soul music.
Location: 926 E McLemore Ave, Memphis, TN 38126
Hours of Operation: Tue. – Sun 10 AM – 5 PM
Beale Street might be known for its street performers, late-night jam sessions, and bar crawls, but if this street could talk, it would tell the story of Black entrepreneur, Robert Church. who purchased the land in 1878.
Church’s investment led to Beale Street eventually serving as a mecca for Black Memphis through housing, grocery stores, famous newspaper the Memphis Free Speech, and many other Black-owned businesses.
The culture made through Black politics, Jazz and Blues music, Southern food, and free speech left an impact on Memphis that is evergreen!
So, next time you’re strolling down Beale, recognize the ones who paved the way for what you see today.
Location: Beale Street
Hours of Operation: The Fun Never Ends!
But wait...There's More!
There are so many events, accomplishments and stories lead by Black legends, in history that have molded Memphis’ culture and have been carried across the winds of our nations.
We hope these spots make your historical landmarks bucket list! Keep up with the Memphis City Guide to find plenty more places to celebrate Bluff City’s Black the history, our history.