Bessie Smith Cultural Center – Chattanooga Museums Series 3
Our third stop on the Museum Hop led us to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. This museum was created in honor of one of the greatest blues singers of the early 1920’s – Bessie Smith. The Bessie Smith Cultural Center is actually made up of two different museums. The Chattanooga African American Museum and the Bessie Smith Performance Hall was renamed the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in 2009.
In the Chattanooga African American Museum portion we observed a featured exhibit about James R. Mapp. James R. Mapp was one of the earliest members of the NAACP. He was instrumental in fighting for equal rights for those of color. He sacrificed much for this city and African Americans throughout the nation. His exhibit will be on display until October 31, 2017.
There is a lot of African and African American art on display. In addition there is are many old photos of Chattanooga, as well as letters, articles, and awards from the past.
On the other side of the Center is the Bessie Smith Performance Hall. Here you can see Bessie Smith’s rectangular Grand Piano, some of her performance clothing, and posters from her concerts.
This area can also be rented out for venues such as musical performances, weddings, and meetings.
Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga in 1892. She started her singing and dancing career early on in life, joining a minstrel and vaudeville show at the age of 20. By the 1920’s she had become one of the most popular and well-paid African American entertainer, loved by both African Americans and Whites. Sadly her life came to a untimely end in 1937, when her car struck a slow-moving truck. She died before they could get her to a hospital.
We found the Center quite interesting. We especially liked the old photos of Chattanooga, seeing places we know well, before they were developed. If you enjoy history, Chattanooga, and/or African American culture, you should stop by and visit. I’ll post the Center’s information below.
Bessie Smith Cultural Center Information
Hours of Operation
10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
February 1 – September 30
12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
October 1 – January 31 By Appointment Only