Historic Classics this side of the Mississippi Delta
Sharecroppers, famous authors and Civil War generals’ stories haunt the Mississippi Delta, cropping up small towns like Henning and booming cities like Memphis. The history of this region is as rich as the soil and you can find these stories of legends, movers and shakers, and activists along the Walking Tall, Cotton Junction and Great River Road driving trails as part of the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. I was able to tour some of the historic sites found in West Tennessee recently. Here are three that resonated.
National Civil Rights Museum
It has often been said that National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis Tennessee is one of the most important museums in America and should be a pilgrimage destination for every American. Like 18th century British statesman Edmund Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated here in 1968. It’s in honor of Dr. King and the many who joined in the fight for Civil Rights, that this museum exists. Most recently, the museum underwent a $27 million renovation, which tells the story of those who fought for equality, from slavery to the modern Civil Rights Movement, from peaceful protests to self-defense to today’s call to continue to protect the rights of all people. The new renovation includes new exhibitions, creating an enhanced experience that puts visitors in the places where history was made. You can also view Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel.
With more than 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films and histories, the museum is a historic destination you must experience.
Alex Haley Museum
You may wonder what could possibly be in Henning, Tenn. as you drive through the hollows and take the sharp turns of the winding roads.
When you happen upon the Alex Haley Museum, you’ll see the house first. Trust your gut and take the path that leads to a glass structure that represents a ship (You’ll learn more about that in the center). It is here in the Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center you will learn about Haley, the author of “Roots,” a journey of self-discovery that inspired millions to learn of their ancestry. The center provides regular genealogy sessions, artifacts, achievements and collections of Haley.
Take a tour of his home, including the front porch where his grandmother told him stories of his ancestors. Learn how he pieced all the genealogical pieces together to pen a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and an Emmy-Award nominated television mini-series which still holds the record as the third highest-rated U.S. television program. You can take a tour Tuesdays-Saturdays and by appointment on Sundays.
Shiloh National Military Park
There’s a hushed silence to the Shiloh National Military Park. Yes, visitors are milling about, riding bikes, motorcycles, driving and perusing the many statues and artifacts. But there’s a reverence to this place, the site where more than 23,000 were captured, wounded or killed, the site of the largest engagement in the Mississippi Valley during the Civil War. The park is more than 4,200 acres and home to the Shiloh National Cemetery where 3,584 Civil War soldiers have been laid to rest with 2,359 of them unknown.
The battlefield is open every day and the visitor center, which houses an engaging and wonderfully-produced video of the battle, is open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Have you visited any of these historical destinations in West Tennessee? Share your experiences below.