The Volunteer State has been the birthplace of some of the most influential music in the world, illustrated by the Beale Street blues clubs in Memphis, the R&B scene on Nashville’s Jefferson Street and Knoxville’s Gem Theater. “I Have a Voice” gives a snapshot of African-American Tennesseans’ important contributions to American music, including spirituals, blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and soul music. In turn, their music has influenced and enriched music around the world. From the early blues legends of W.C. Handy and Bessie Smith to the soul hits of STAX Records in Memphis, visitors can learn about various performers, getting the chance to hear the voices and the stories of many of the African-American musicians from Tennessee who made their mark on American music and beyond.
The exhibit, which will be on display in the museum’s Learning Center, has been created and is being traveled by the Tennessee State Museum. A Tennessee State Museum curator-led talk about the exhibit will be open to the public on the evening of Thursday, February 21.