All the times we’ve been in the area, we’ve never stopped in Memphis. Usually we visit friends in Atlanta and end up going through Nashville. Since no one else in my family likes country music and it doesn’t seem like Nashville plays up the Black history angle, there really doesn’t seem like there’s a reason to stop there.
Memphis on the other hand has tons of Black history, even the outskirts. On the way to Memphis, we spent a few days in Brownsville, TN because that’s where the Tina Turner Museum is. Since we were in town, we also decided to check out the Dunbar Carver Museum and drive out to Nutbush, TN.
Delta Heritage Center
It turns out that the Tina Turner Museum is in a small one-room schoolhouse that was moved to the Delta Heritage Center and sits to the side next to the last home of Sleepy Joe Estes. There is a lot more to do at this free center than just the Tina Turner Museum. It also has a few mini-museums in the building. We saw a Cotton Museum that detailed how cotton was grown and sold though they left out any mention of enslaving Black people to do it. The room had lots of artifacts and a diorama. Interestingly enough, it also had a bell from a plantation but no mention of those that enslaved or those that were enslaved. Ahhhh …. the passive voice.
The kid’s favorite part was the Hatchie River Museum. There are three small fish tanks with creatures in them, a stuffed (as in taxidermy) turtle, and an animatronic fisherman in long boots that tells stories about growing up along the Hatchie River when you push a button. My oldest wanted to stay in that part all day. In fact, when we went across the hallway to the music part he asked to return to the river part. It’s a small building and there weren’t many people so we allowed it.
The last mini museum was the West Tennessee Music Museum. We learned about Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil’s Son in Law. Lol It was cool to read a bit more about the musical influences that came out of western Tennessee.
After touring the inside of the building, we headed out to the Tina Turner Museum. It’s a small building that houses a few pews, some of Tina’s outfits (her Mad Max one is in there), a video of her talking about her time at the school, and some information about the community she grew up in and how the Black people in the community banded together to create the school.
Since we were there, we also checked out the Sleepy John Estes house. It was sad. They had a map with all places he’s played in a room that was so tiny … the house didn’t even have a bathroom for goodness’ sake.
Dunbar Carver Museum
We headed over to the Dunbar Carver Museum. It’s less than a 10 minute drive from the Heritage Center. I originally thought it was a museum of the Black community. Apparently, it’s more of a museum of the high school. When we pulled up, there was another car parked under the shady tree. When I hopped out, a woman got out of her car and asked if I was the person she was supposed to meet. When I told her that I wasn’t, she asked if I had family that attended the school. When I told her I didn’t, she seemed a bit confused. Most of the museum is photos and information about the school, the students, and the instructors.
Once I got her talking, she was willing to talk with me about the community and the history. She grew up picking cotton! Although I wasn’t sure when I arrived, by the end I was glad that I had stopped by. I spent about an hour walking around with her. It turns out that Tina Turner attended Dunbar Carver High School for a minute. They have quotes from her book talking about her experience and photos of the people Tina mentioned in her book. That was a cool surprise.
Since we’d already made it that far we decided to head on out on Tina Turner highway to Nutbush, Tennessee. The woman at the Dunbar Carver Museum told me that it was only about three buildings and if I blinked, I’d miss it. She was not lying! Lol
We did drive by it! We had to turn around and return to the only three buildings in the area (it’s mostly farmland). There was some kind of mill. There was some kind of store. There was … this building. I wasn’t sure if we should knock or not and since we were off the beaten track of Tennessee … we decided that we should take a photo and be on our way. Lol
It was lots of fun and amazingly, every thing we visited today was free. If you’re in the area, I suggest you drop by.
Places I would have liked to have eaten:
Reggie’s BBQ. They make bbq.
Dumplins. They make desserts.
Places I would have liked to have visited:
Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. If you know her music or saw Coal Miner’s Daughter you might be interested in visiting her ranch. There are a couple museums, beautiful land, and sometimes they say you can catch a glimpse of her on the grounds.