I know Memphis is most known for BBQ, Blues, and unfortunately the last place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took his last breathe, but Memphis is so much more than just those things. Memphis is filled with art, Memphis is a place where restoring older communities is priority, Memphis is the place where you go to find that special sound you cannot get anywhere else. Memphis is my home.
I am so thankful the awesome people of Toyota for providing us with new Toyota’s to drive for an entire week as well as during our tour. Steeped In History Memphis edition was a day long tour highlighting African American history that is deep rooted throughout my city narrated by A Tour of Possibilities owner Carolyn Michael-Banks, also referred to as Queen. I honestly do not think this tour would have been the same without her.
Our first stop was breakfast at Jim and Samella‘s, a family owned soul food restaurant that is currently ran by Talbert Fleming. Their recipes were handed down directly from Samella, their grandmother. Each recipe has a creole flair that was undeniably delicious. Did I mention this restuarant made you feel like family? No one waited on you hand and foot, there was even koolaid to drink. Passed around family style was fried fish, eggs, fried pork chops, homemade breakfast potatoes, waffles, and even shrimp and grits for an appetizer. This place is definitely what you need to feed your soul and your belly.
Next, was a brief visit to the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum. One fact that stood out the most to me was the importance of the type trees in front of the house, which were Magnolia trees. These trees were planted, because they remained green year round and were an easy indicator for slaves that were traveling the underground railroad trying to locate the safe house.
The African-African International Museum Foundation was the next stop on tour, curated by Dr. Carnita Atwater. This museum is filled with tons of African-American history that is extremely unique. This museum was unlike other museums because all of your senses were intrigued. These one-of-a-kind authentic artifacts were on display but free to be touched and even tried on in one case. This is certainly a hidden gem that I must return to with my family.
Next stop was the Withers Collection Museum & Gallery located on Beale Street. This museum is filled with original photographs taken by Dr. Ernest C. Withers who was a photographer and historian. His photojournalism captured the beginning stages of the Civil Rights Movement as he covered the trial of Emmitt Till in 1955.
Our tour then took us to Memphis Slim Collabortory, located in the heart of Soulsville. Memphis Slim Collabortory, was the home of famed blues singer and pianist John “Peter” Chatman, better known to friends and audiences worldwide as Memphis Slim. Memphis Slim Collabortory is a place where local artist can come to feel at home, rehearase, learn and create legendary music once again.
Royal Studios was next on our tour and was simply amazing. “Under Willie Mitchell, the musical direction of Hi changed significantly from rockabilly to R&B as Mitchell helped fashion the modern Memphis’ soul sound. Mitchell signed with Hi in 1963 as a session trumpetier. As a musician he had mild personal success with “20-75” before hitting big with “Buster Browne” (#29, 1965) and “Bad Eye” (#23, 1966). The pinnacle of Mitchell’s personal recording career was in 1968 with “Soul Serenade” (#10).” This place even had an autograph wall where many of our favorites signed.
Next stop was Knowledge Quest. Seeing that a place like Knowledge Quest exists in the heart of South Memphis was everything to me. Surrounded by vacant houses sits a place that houses a Green Leaf community garden, this garden is a 2/3-acre urban, micro-farm. Formally initiated in 2010 to support the nutritional needs of the South Memphis community, Green Leaf now operates as a certified USDA organic farm that focuses its efforts on three strategic pillars: student education, community/economic development, and food access/security.
Last but certainly not least was lunch at H&M Lounge. This place is amazing and the menu is off the chain with pairing created by Chef Fran and Chef Champ, a husband and wife chef duo.
If you would like to see all of the official stops and the quick stops in between check out my Instagram Highlight “Steep In History.”