How To Explore Memphis, TN While Supporting Black Businesses, Art, And History
Photo Credit: TN

Photo Credit: TN

How To Explore Memphis, TN While Supporting Black Businesses, Art, And History

black owned business , Cuisine , Memphis , United States
Stephanie Ogbogu
Stephanie Ogbogu Jun 21, 2022

With a Black population of over 60%, Memphis, TN is one of the Blackest cities in the United States. The culture in Memphis is as rich and diverse as its people and is continuing to thrive by the day. There are roughly 55,000 Black-owned businesses in the Memphis Statistical Region and the city ranks #4 in terms of highest-earning female entrepreneurs.

As the birthplace of Rock & Roll and the “Home of the Blues,” many people travel to Memphis to check out the music scene, and while at it, chow down on some world-renowned barbecue. However, there’s a lot more to do in this historic town.

You don’t have to wait until Black History Month or Juneteenth to show interest in Black arts and businesses. Here are just a few things you should do the next time you want to immerse yourself in Black Memphian culture.

Try an ice-cold Gxld Brew at Cxffeeblack

 

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cxffeeblack (@cxffeeblack) • Instagram photos and videos


Cxffeeblack ( 761 National St, Memphis, TN) is a Black-owned coffee shop owned by Bartholemew Jones and Renata Henderson.  With the slogan, “Make Coffee Black Again,”  Cxffeeblack uses education, empowerment, and high-quality coffee to reconnect the community to the history of coffee’s African origins — Ethiopia to be exact.

Memphis
Cxffeeblack / Photo Courtesy: Stephanie Ogbogu

They offer an array of coffee flavors and merchandise in-store, but an all-time favorite is their exclusive Gxld Brew made of Japenese flash chill Guji, citrus, and monk fruit. You’ll hardly feel like you’re drinking coffee — well, until the caffeine kicks in!

The art and photography on the walls will capture your attention as well. And if all that “All Black Everything” isn’t enough, make sure to snap a pic in front of the beautiful mural adorning the building on your way out.

Memphis
Cxffeeblack / Photo Courtesy: Stephanie Ogbogu

 

Check out the art at TONE Gallery

 

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Tone HQ (@tonehq901) • Instagram photos and videos


Black art is front and center at TONE Gallery, located at 2234 Lamar Ave. in Memphis, TN. Founded by Victoria Jones and Lawrence Matthews, TONE is an arts & culture nonprofit focusing on elevating Memphis’ local Black art, culture, and music scene. On any given day, you can find exhibits featuring art, fashion, and photography by Memphis’ Black local talent. If you’re lucky enough to be in town for one of TONE’s pop-up events, you should definitely check them out.

Memphis
TONE Gallery / Photo Courtesy: Stephanie Ogbogu

 

Learn the history of Soul at the Stax Museum

You can’t visit Memphis without educating (or re-educating) yourself on the role the city played on the origins of soul music. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music does just that.

The Stax Museum is located at 926 East McLemore Avenue, where the legendary Stax Records once stood. Iconic soul, blues, and funk artists such as Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and The Staple Singers once called Stax Records home. The museum does an amazing job of not only giving you a history lesson of the record company and recording studio, but also walking you through the history and origin of Black music overall. Through photographs, films, interactive exhibits, stage costumes, vintage recording equipment and more, the museum successfully pays tribute to the artists who recorded at Stax Records, as well as other American soul legends. There’s no doubt that you’ll get your fill of music knowledge at the Stax Museum.

My favorite exhibit had to be Isaac Hayes’ 1972 custom gold-plated Cadillac Eldorado on a spinning display. It’s just one of the 2000+ rare artifacts and memorabilia being showcased.

Grab a bite at Sage

Sage is the brainchild of Charles Nwankwo, Rickey Johnson, Courtney Mims, Christopher Tatum, Oderah Nwankwo, and Jeremy Toney. This vibey eatery, located at 94 S Main St., was opened in 2019 but struggled to stay afloat in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. However, you wouldn’t know that from stepping foot in the establishment today. They’ve stayed true to their goal of Serving A Great Experience (SAGE) by supplying good eats, good music, and a welcoming, yet hip, atmosphere.

Memphs
Sage Restaurant / Photo Courtesy: Stephanie Ogbogu

Sage serves Soul-American cuisine. With Executive Chef Eli Townsend at the helm, menu items such as the Soul Rolls, Fish & Smoked Grits, the Sage Burger, and Sage Wings have become instant fan favorites.  The drinks are insanely good too!

Memphis
Sage Restaurant / Photo Courtesy: Stephanie Ogbogu

Enjoy a show at the Hattiloo Theatre

 

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Founded by Ekundayo Bandele in 2006, Hattiloo Theatre is one of four of the only freestanding Black repertory theaters in the US.  Hattiloo focuses on producing plays that tell lesser-known stories about the new South. Now in its 15th season, you can catch live stage plays such as “Five Guys Named Moe,” “Lady Day,” “Porgy & Bess,” and Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” which reimagines the events that took place the night before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hattiloo is a great place to get educated and entertained. It’s also perfect for the entire family.

Grab some soul food at The Four Way

 

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The Four Way Restaurant (@thefourway) • Instagram photos and videos


Looking for some authentic soul food that’s just like granny used to make? Look no further than The Four Way (998 Mississippi Blvd).

Back in the early ’60s, The Four Way was one of a few places in Memphis where Black and white diners regularly sat together. They served incredible soul food to their neighborhood, Stax musicians, and visiting dignitaries.  The restaurant became a home for civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton.  Today, owner Patrice Bates Thompson continues the tradition of serving love on a plate to people from all walks of life.

The National Civil Rights Museum is a must-see

 

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No visit to Memphis, TN would be complete without checking out the National Civil Rights Museum. Memphis played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement. It was where, in February 1968 1,300 Black sanitation workers went on strike in response to the deaths of their colleagues, Echol Cole and Robert Walker. It’s where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his infamous “Mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple. It’s also home of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated in April of 1968.

Memphis
Lorraine Motel at The National Civil Rights Museum / Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Ogbogu

The Lorraine Motel is perfectly preserved as an exhibit just outside of the Civil Rights museum and is available for visitors to view for free. The feeling of feasting your eyes on this moment in history will leave you in awe. Visitors can also learn more about the sanitation strike and Dr. King’s assassination before even walking through the museum doors.

Once inside, however, museum attendees are instantly flooded with exhibit after exhibit of Black history —  REAL Black history. Everything from slavery to boycotts is covered. The bus that Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on has been preserved and so has the Lorraine Motel.  Upon entering The Civil Rights Museum, you feel like you have become a part of history itself.

Stop by B.B. King's

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@JIMIJON via Twenty20

Although not Black-owned, we have to give a shout-out to B.B. King’s Blues Club, a staple of Beale Street’s Entertainment District, which is dedicated to the Blues legend himself.

Riley “B.B.” King may not have been a native Memphian, but it was in the 1940s, while living in Memphis, that he began to amass a following while performing in bars and on the radio. In fact, it was a radio DJ in Memphis that nicknamed King the “Beale Street Blues Boy”, which was later shortened to “Blues Boy” before once again being shortened to “B.B”.

At B.B. King’s Blues Club, you can have your pick of Southern dishes such as po’ boys, shrimp and grits, BBQ chicken, and ribs while listening to the house band fill your ears with blues, classic soul, and rock & roll tunes. Artwork, murals, and memorabilia honoring the late B.B. King fill the space. It’s a nice hangout spot for any music lover. 

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