Memphis has a multitude of landmarks that hold the history of the Civil Rights Movement. You can walk in the footsteps of activists at the National Civil Rights Museum or experience the history at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his last speech, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop.” These landmarks and more are all part of the United States Civil Rights Trail. The most recent landmark to join the historical trail is the Stax Museum of American Soul Music!
The United States Civil Rights Trail debuted in 2018 and now includes more than 120 sites significant to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It consists of over 100 churches, courthouses, schools, museums, and landmarks where activists challenged segregation to advance social justice. The Civil Rights Trail allows us to experience the history, learn from our past, and build hope for our future.
In 1960 a music-loving brother and sister duo, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axon, purchased a movie theatre off McLemore Avenue in Memphis and relocated their recording equipment. A string of hits was recorded, and the sensation of soul music was born. The museum tells the story of American Soul Music’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. When racial tensions were high, black and white artists worked together to create music and transcend boundaries. Stax Museum highlights Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Ike & Tina Turner, Albert King, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, and hundreds of others.
” 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.” – Jeff Kollath, Executive Director of Stax Museum
With the addition of the Stax Museum, Tennessee has a total of 14 stops within the state. Other locations in Memphis include the National Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street Historic District, the original WDIA Radio Station facility at 112 Union Ave., Mason Temple Church of God in Christ, Clayborn Temple and I AM A MAN Plaza. The other Tennessee site announced for inclusion was the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) in Nashville, which opened in January 2021.
The Stax Museum also launched its second annual Virtual Black History Month Tour, which is available at no cost to educators and students throughout the world but requires registration HERE.
For more information about the Stax Museum on the United States Civil Rights Trail, visit HERE. For more information on Tennessee stops along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, visit www.TNcivilrightstrail.com.