What is: the original signage at the Lorraine hotel before it became the motel. During the creation of the National Civil Rights Museum in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the original hotel building was renovated to include reminders of what the hotel looked like before being transformed into the the motor court in the 1950s/60s.

What was: The signage on the Mulberry Street-Huling Avenue side promises steaks, shrimp and fish. It still entices some visitors who don’t realize at first that it’s part of the museum, not a restaurant.

Walter and Loree Bailey bought what had been the Marquette Hotel in 1945. The Baileys renamed the hotel the Lorraine for Loree Bailey and the Nat King Cole song “Sweet Lorraine.”

In the era of racial segregation, an African-American traveling for any reason had few hotels to stay at and couldn’t go to just any restaurant in the immediate vicinity. So the Bailey’s added a restaurant. The kitchen is where Loree Bailey prepared food for the motel’s guests.

Figures like Cab Calloway and Count Basie, along with Stax Records musicians used the Lorraine as a creative oasis of sorts. The Lorraine hosted doctors, lawyers, salesmen, businessmen, families on vacation, and those traveling America after World War II who were determined to change the segregated society they returned to after fighting for their country.

Isaac Hayes reminisced, “We’d go down to the Lorraine Motel and we’d lay by the pool and Mr. Bailey would bring us fried chicken and we’d eat ice cream. . . . We’d just frolic until the sun goes down and [then] we’d go back to work.”

Two famous songs, “In the Midnight Hour” and “Knock on Wood,” were written at the motel.

More here

 

What is: all that is left were the signs at the side of the road.

What was: Opened in 1935, as the Santa Rosa stretch of Route 66 was completed, The Club Café was a staple of the early Route 66.

It had a blue-tiled frontage and smiling ‘Fat Man’ logo, a happy gent wearing a polka dot tie and looking delighted after, presumably, dining on the Club Café’s home cooking–including the more than two million sourdough biscuits sold as it advertised. In its heyday, the parking lot was filled…with cars and buses.

Along came I-40 and the changing consumer demand for fast foods at big chains. The club closed for good in 1992. New owners thought of bringing it back to life, but the building required $750,000.00 of work so it was demolished. The signs remained until a couple years ago… tattered by wind, sunlight and rust they were removed and sold to a collector.

There is now significant alarm and concern within the Route 66 community over the continued removal of these priceless roadside attractions.

What is: “Self serve Diesel” but no pumps…the lights are still there and so is the sign. The garage remains too…but not the diner.

What was: The truck terminal dated back to the heyday of Route 66 in the early 1960s, maybe as early as 1955. The neon wheels, the cowboy truck driver, and his animated hand waved during its hey day.

It was one of seven truck stops and five cafes originally built and operated by Bessie (Rogers) Boren and husband Ira Lionel Boren of the Fort Sumner-based Rio Pecos Oil Company.“We had it from 1963 to 1969,” Martinez said. “We were doing a hell of a business at that truck stop.”The business declined from other truck-stop competition and the coming of Interstate 40.  It closed by the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Since then, it has become a growing eyesore to the city because it drew vandals and homeless squatters. The city tried to buy the sign…the owner wanted too much for it.

What is: A mound on Pamunkey Neck, described as the gravesite of Powhatan.

What was: Powhatan, was the leader of many Algonquian tribes and met on several occasions with Captain John Smith in 1607 in the earliest recorded meetings between a Native leader and the English. On one visit in 1609, the English forced Powhatan to bow so they could crown him as a ruler in Virginia.

He died around 1618, and the ceremony for the “taking up” of his bones was a signal for the uprising that initiated the Second Anglo-Powhatan War in 1622. Colonists did not know the details of Powhatan’s death or burial, so the written records do not document the location of his grave.

His bones may have been placed in a mat and kept in the Uttamusak temple complex, rather than interred in the ground. Whether or not Powhatan’s remains ended up on what is today the Pamunkey reservation, no one knows for sure.  However, it highlights the association with the paramount chief and father of Pocahontas and gives the Pamunkey tribe special status today.

The railroad tracks running across the Powhatan mound were first laid in 1855, across 22 acres of the Pamunkey reservation, without permission from the Pamunkey and with no compensation to the Pamunkey for this unsolicited and unwanted use of their land.

In 1975 the Pamunkey began a suit against the Southern Railroad Company which in 1979 resulted in reparations of $100,000 being paid to the Pamunkey for the location of these tracks. The terms of their settlement also required that the railroad continue regular rent payments for use of that land in the future, and determined that if the railroad should at any point discontinue use of the tracks, the land will be returned to Pamunkey use.

It’s a seed shed in Mississippi….on private property and often written out of the Emmett Till story. But, Imagine the screams of a 14 year old. And Willie, who saw things and heard things, had to evacuated after testimony at trial and then had a mental breakdown…..

What is: Sunflower County Seed Barn, Sunflower County, MS

What was: This barn is the location where Emmett Till was beaten and, most likely, murdered. The barn is on what was then Leslie Milam’s (the brother of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant) plantation.

According to the testimonies of Willie Reed, his grandfather Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley during the murder trial, this barn was where Emmett Till was taken the night that he was kidnapped.

Willie Reed testified to seeing a white pickup with four white men and three black men–one on the floor and two sitting on the rails beside him–pull up to the barn. Soon after, he heard what sounded like a person being badly beaten inside of the barn. Willie Reed then saw J.W. Milam come out of the barn, get a drink of water, and return to the barn. (1) Add Reed supported Willie Reed’s testimony, claiming to have seen J.W. Milam and the white truck. Mandy Bradley testified that she saw the men going in and out of the barn around 6:30-7:00am. She saw the men back the truck into the shed, then drive away. (2)

The testimonies of Willie Reed, Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley had the potential to upset the Emmett Till murder trial, as their testimony revealed that the murder actually occurred in Sunflower County, not in Tallahatchie County, which would shift the jurisdiction of the courts. However, the trial remained in Tallahatchie County.

Following their testimony, Willie Reed, Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley all had to flee Mississippi. Willie was under police protection for several months. He then had a mental breakdown but went on to live in Chicago under a different name — first in secrecy and later in relative obscurity. For decades, he worked as a hospital orderly. He died in 2013. His wife said that she didnt know about his role in the Till case for seven or eight years into their marriage. Memories burdened him until the end of his life. Sometimes, she said, he would wake up from his sleep “moaning and turning.” In the FBI investigation of the Till murder in the early 2000s, Willie made a final trip to Mississippi to help investigators identify this site and part of the seed shed associated with the Lynching. https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/ddfe67e0-f2e5-11e2…

This site has often been written out of the Emmett Till narrative due to William Bradford Huie’s article in LOOK Magazine. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam could not be tried again for Emmett Till’s murder due to double jeopardy laws, but the other people involved in the murder, namely Leslie Milam who owned the barn where the murder took place, could still be prosecuted. Huie needed signed consent forms from each person involved in the murder to publish the article, so Huie re-wrote the story of the murder to involve only Milam and Bryant, changing the location of the murder to a barn near Glendora, MS in Tallahatchie County. As Dave Tell et al. note, “Although it is wrong, Huie’s story has been so influential that every single map published on the Till murder between the publication of LOOK’s article in January 1956 and 2005 left the Milam Plantation off the map entirely.” (3)

The barn is now under private ownership.

Footnotes 1. Devery Anderson, Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement, University Press of Mississippi, 2015, pp. 128-9.

2. ibid, p. 133.
3. Dave Tell, Davis Houck, Pablo Correa & the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, “Seed Barn, Milam Plantation,” Emmett Till Memory Project, 2021, https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/4.

What is: Mose Wright’s sharecroppinig home.  Money, Mississippi

Emmett Till was kidnapped from the location seen in the historic images below. It no longer exists.  The image Im sharing is about half a mile from the original location.  On the evening of August 28, 1955. He was staying at the home of his great uncle and aunt, Moses and Elizabeth Wright, who sharecropped 25 acres of cotton on the Grover Frederick Plantation. Source:https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/13

What was:  On Saturday, August 27th 1955, Mose Wright, his three sons, the three relatives from Chicago including Emmett Till and some of the neighbors went into the city of Greenwood for some fun. The boys walked the busy streets, gazed at the nightclubs and were amazed by the large crowds of the city.  They would drive back to Money, MS and by 2am all were asleep after a big night out.  Simeon Wright and Emmett shared a bed.

Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door.  Mr Bryant identified himself saying he needed to talk the boy who did all the talking.   Another man had a flashlight and a gun. They cased the house and found Emmett Till.  They made him get dressed and took him.  They told Mose Wright, who had said he was 64 years old, “if you ever know any of us here tonight, you wont live to be 65.” Mose asked them to just give Emmett a whipping and Moses’ wife offered money for any damages Emmett had caused.

Emmett was driven away into the night.

There is a warrant for Carolyn Bryant’s arrest in relation to the kidnapping. She is still alive and the warrant has never been fulfilled.

From FBI Investigation in the 2000s

Home of Mose Wright, Emmett Till’s great uncle, where Till was staying when he has abducted and murdered. Sept. 1, 1955

What is: Easy Money Church of God in Christ, Money, MS

What was: When Emmett Till’s body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River on Wednesday morning, August 31, 1955, plans were hastily made to have him buried in the small cemetery at the East Money Church of God in Christ—a humble black church that his Uncle, Moses Wright, pastored at.  After Emmett Till’s body was found, local law enforcement was anxious to bury the body and, they hoped, the story. Within hours of the body’s retrieval, a grave was dug here at the East Money church. Till’s great uncle Crosby Smith interrupted the digging. He arrived with a deputy sheriff and announced that Till’s mother, Mamie Till, insisted that her son’s body be returned home to Chicago. Source: https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/3

One week earlier, and while Wright and his wife Elizabeth attended Wednesday services, Till, his cousins, and two neighbors drove nearly three miles to the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market in Money, where Till had his fateful encounter with Carolyn Bryant. Ms. Bryant is alive today and has never been arrested, even though there is a warrant for her involvement in kidnapping.

Visit the Emmett Till Memory Project for more sites and stories or the Emmett Till Interpretive Center

 

Domestic terrorism and militias have always been around….question is how much breath do they get and/or do we give them.

What is: The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial, perfectly manicured lawn, gently lit “chairs”- one for each  of the 168 people, including 19 children, who were killed when domestic terrorists parked a truck bomb in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Each chair has a name on it.  Small chairs for the children.

What was:  On April 19, 1995 – 27 years ago, the bombing happened at 9:02 am and killed 168 people, injured more than 680 others and destroyed one third of the building. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage.  Until the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States, and remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in the country’s history. The official investigation, known as “OKBOMB”, saw FBI agents conduct 28,000 interviews, amass 3.5 short tons (3,200 kg) of evidence, and collect nearly one billion pieces of information. The bombers were tried and convicted in 1997.

If you ever get a chance see this memorial and then go to the museum for the exhibits and to listen to the bombing as recorded from across the street https://memorialmuseum.com/

 

 

What is: Stax Records, “Soulsville USA” Memphis, Tennessee.  Its Founder, Jim Stewart, died this week at age 92.

What was: It was the late 1950s and Jim Stewart, a white Tennessee farm boy and fiddle player, co-founded with his sister the influential Stax Records  in a Black, inner-city Memphis neighborhood.  They helped build the soulful “Memphis sound” – a raw sound born from Black church music, the blues and rock ‘n’ roll. It featured strong rhythm sections, powerful horn players, and singers who could be sexy and soulful in one tune, and loud and forceful in another.

During the era of racial strife, white musicians and producers worked alongside Black singers, songwriters and instrumentalists to create that “Memphis sound” embodied by Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MGs, Carla and Rufus Thomas, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and many others. The recording produced lasting hits such as Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay,” Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin'” and “Soul Man,” and “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the M.G.s.  Stax and its affiliated record labels released 300 albums and 800 singles between 1959 and 1975, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Stewart told The Associated Press in a May 2013 interview, “There was so much talent here, under circumstances that were almost considered impossible in Memphis, Tennessee in 1960, with the racial situation here. It was a sanctuary for all of us to get away from the outside world.”

Source: https://www.npr.org/2022/12/06/1140926122/stax-records-jim-stewart-co-founder-dies-92-memphis-sound?fbclid=IwAR0RbuBwf5LhMFONb2Hc5jBGuOtUjWNb_FgpBcU9XYO-29WbLx8wQuSBPMU

 

Isaac Hayes’ cadillac here

 


What is: Abandoned Train Station, Tutwiler, Mississippi

What was: Meet W.C Handy. William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was an American composer and musician who referred to himself as the Father of the Blues. Handy was one of the most influential songwriters in the United States. While he was one of many musicians who played American blues, Handy did not create the blues but he was the first to publish music in the blues form, thereby taking the blues from a regional music style (Delta blues) with a limited audience to a new level of popularity.

Tutwiler, Mississippi is probably best known in music history as the place where W.C. Handy first discovered the blues, likely around 1903-1904, as he was waiting here, at Tutwiler’s railway station for a delayed train. At that time, Handy was managing a band based in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Here’s how Handy described the encounter (Source: http://www.mississippibluestravellers.com/w-c-handy-autobiography-father-of-the-blues/)

“The band which I found in Clarksdale and the nine-man orchestra which grew out of it did yeoman duty in the Delta. We played for affairs of every description. I came to know by heart every foot of the Delta, even from Clarksdale to Lambert on the Dog and Yazoo City. I could call every stop, water tower and pig path on the Peavine with my eyes closed. It all became a familiar, monotonous round. Then one night in Tutwiler, as I nodded in the railroad station while waiting for a train that had been delayed nine hours, life suddenly took me by the shoulder and wakened me with a start.  A lean, loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me while I slept. His clothes were rags, his feet peeped out of his shoes. As he played he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who use steel bars.  The effect was unforgettable. His song, too, struck me instantly. “Goin’ where the Southern cross’ the Dog.”

The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard. The tune stayed in my mind. When the singer paused, I leaned over and asked him what the words meant. He rolled his eyes, showing a trace of mild amusement. Perhaps I should have known, but he didn’t mind explaining. At Moorhead the eastbound and the westbound met and crossed the north and southbound trains four times a day. This fellow was going where the Southern cross’ the Dog, and he didn’t care who knew it. He was simply singing about Moorhead as he waited.”

From that epiphany in Tutwiler, W.C. Handy changed his own musical direction to a course which led to his becoming one of the most influential figures in the history of American music.