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Weekend Reads: “Beale Street Dynasty”

It seems only fitting to end the week with a book about the earliest days of Memphis’ music scene.

Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of MemphisBeale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis by Preston Lauterbach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beale Street Dynasty is about more than just the beginning of Memphis’ music scene. It’s about the influential Church family (Robert Sr. was the first black millionaire in the USA) and their effects on politics, vice, and more.

We get a look not only at the Church family, but also at E.H. Crump (arguably the Memphis version of Boss Tweed) and his political rise … which depended upon the influence Church Sr. had over the people of color in the city. We also learn about Ida B. Wells, who was one of the first black female journalists in the country … and whose investigative reporting on lynchings brought them into the entire country’s awareness.

Finally, we see the rise of Memphis music, with W.C. Handy writing the first blues song ever about the aforementioned Mayor Crump.

This is a well-researched and interesting book, with a great deal of information packed into it. Highly recommended for those who, like myself, are studying Memphis history for any given reason.

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