2023 Black history Month

February is Black History Month. It is the annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of Blacks in the United States. Founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926, it was first called Negro History Week and hosted the second week of February. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially designated February as Black History Month.

Legacy Lives Here

The Grizzlies celebrate Black History Month through several community initiatives, social highlights, and in-game entertainment. Join us as we learn, reflect, and celebrate Black History and Culture in Memphis and the Mid South.

Black History Month Games



Grizzlies 5th Annual HBCU Empowerment Awards

The Grizzlies 5th Annual HBCU Empowerment Awards, presented by Pinnacle, will honor seven outstanding individuals who graduated from an Historical Black College or University and are empowering their community, within the City of Memphis and Shelby County, in the fields of Education, Health & Fitness, Youth Development or Service. In recognition of their commitments to the community, a donation of $5,000 will be made to each honoree’s alma mater, in their name.

Ena Esco Cole

Owner, Creator

Ivy Multimedia LLC, Verbally Effective Podcast

LeMoyne-Owen College

Honored February 01

Jozelle Luster Booker

President and CEO

Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum

Jackson State University

Honored February 05

Sam O'Bryant III

Executive Director

Literacy Mid-South

Alcorn State University

Honored February 07

Sunya Payne

Director of Family and Community Engagement

Memphis-Shelby County Schools

LeMoyne-Owen College

Honored February 10

Anthony Branch


Memphis Leadership Foundation

Howard University

Honored February 15

Arlinda Fair Cathey

Program Manager for DEI Programs & Community Engagement

National Civil Rights Museum

Jackson State University

Honored February 25

Bridget D. Sisney


Universoul Wellness LLC

Dillard University

Honored February 28

Amber M. Hamilton

Executive Director

Memphis Music Initiative

Howard University

Anthony Norris

EVP, CDO, Chairman & CEO

YMCA Memphis & the Mid-South

NC Central University

Dr. Orpheus Triplett

Assistant Dean

Community Oral Heath and Outreach

UT College of Dentistry

Trey Carter


Olympic Training Career Institute

Florida A&M University

Trevia Chatman

Sr. VP Memphis Market Manager

Bank of America

Tennessee State University

Tyrone A. Burroughs


First Choice Sales and Marketing

Benedict College

Kontji Anthony

Evening Anchor

WMC Action News 5

Howard University

Linda McNeil

Senior Account Manager

Gaskill Strategies

LeMoyne-Owen College

Miska Clay Bibbs

Chief of Staff

Teach for America

Hampton University

Sandra Reed MD


Mid South Anesthesia Consultants

Spelman College

Dillon Robinson

Clinical Research Monitor

St. Jude Research Hospital

Jackson State University

Black Art Installation at FedExForum

See curated art from seven black artist who are changing the landscape of visual arts in Memphis - featured in FedExForum throughout Black History Month

Locations: Terrace Level (Sections 226 – 231) & Main Concourse (Across from the Burrito Food Stand)


Magnifying Memphis:
28 Days of Black History

Representing the 28 days in February, this calendar features 28 facts that speak to the City of Memphis, Memphis Grizzlies, and the NBA. Curated with the support of the Memphis Public Library and Facing History & Ourselves, these facts will highlight Black Historians from our community and beyond.

Follow along @memgrizz on our social channels for updates to the calendar each day.

In 2022, Chandell Ryan became the first Black woman to hold the role of Chief Operating Officer for the City of Memphis. A 13-year veteran of City government, she is now responsible for leading the day-to-day service delivery, resource allocation, budget and policy development for all the city’s divisions.
The Pioneers Black Fire Fighters, Inc. was chartered and established in 1973. They provided a support system for African American firefighters in Memphis.
Hattiloo Theatre is the region’s sole Black modern performing arts venue supporting African American playwrights, musicians and actors. The theatre opened on September 22, 2006 in a small storefront in the Edge District of Memphis, TN. It now resides in Overton Square, engaging over 5,000 people each year.
Vertis Hayes, a local artist, established a Black artistic community in Memphis and started the Art Department at LeMoyne-Owen College, where he taught until the 1950s.
In 1955, 12 men made history as the first African American firefighters at Fire Station 8 in Memphis. The Fire Museum of Memphis created a new exhibit in 2021 honoring the 12 firefighters that chronicled the history of African American firefighters in the Memphis Fire Services from 1955 until today. The fire department desegregated in 1966.
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is the world’s only museum dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of Stax Records and American soul music. Stax Records launched the careers of legendary artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs and numerous others.
Orange Mound was the first location in the South that African Americans could own their homes. They built a school, which still stands as Melrose High School. Black doctors, lawyers and educators moved there. Eventually, it grew to become the second largest community of African American residents after Harlem, New York.
Fred Davis opened Fred L. Davis Insurance Agency in 1967. This was the first African American owned independent insurance agency in the South that represented a multi-line industry. Soon after, Davis was elected to the first Memphis City Council and helped negotiate a resolution to the sanitation workers’ strike.
Reverend Samuel “Billy” Kyles propelled the Black sanitation workers in Memphis to go on strike in 1968 due to their low pay and poor working conditions. He organized nightly rallies and raised money before scheduling a major rally for April 3, 1968. Kyles helped convince Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Memphis and deliver his “All Labor Has Dignity” speech to the workers.
Benjamin Hooks joined Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, preached at the Greater Middle Baptist Church in Memphis and was a pioneer in restaurant sit-ins and other boycotts sponsored by the NAACP. In 1972, Hooks became the first African American appointee to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and later was elected Executive Director of the NAACP in 1976.
Bishop Charles Harrison Mason was the founder and first Sr. Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, the largest African American Pentecostal church in the nation. He moved the COGIC headquarters to Memphis, where MLK delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.
B.B. King, known as the “King of the Blues” and the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound in which he brought to Memphis.
Willie Mitchell shaped the sound of Al Green, Ann Peebles and other stars of soul music as the house producer for Hi Records located at Memphis’ Royal Studio in the 1960s and 1970s.
In the early 1960s, the Four Way Grill was one of a few places in Memphis where Black and white diners regularly sat together. They served incredible soul food to their neighborhood, Stax musicians and visiting dignitaries. The restaurant became a home for leaders of the Civil Rights Movement such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton.
While most famous for his coverage of the Civil Rights Movement, Ernest C. Withers is also widely recognized as providing unique content of American history in the realms of sports, music, politics and everyday life. His work can be viewed at the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery on Historic Beale Street.
Founded by celebrity dancer/choreographer Ladia Yates in 2014, L.Y.E Academy aims to create industry opportunities for the Memphis youth in our community, keep them active and inspire them to make great decisions in life. L.Y.E Academy has been featured on So You Think You Can Dance, MTV’s TRL, Lil Baby’s “WHOA” music video, Duke Deuce’s “Crunk Ain’t Dead” remix video, Big Boogie’s “Turn Up” music video and more!
The Memphis Sound, a mixture of blues, R&B, and soul, was created at Stax Records in the 1960s, featuring the work of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Bar-Kays and more.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Fearing rioting, Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb, who initially refused to meet with the strikers and employed methods to undermine them, reached a settlement and the strike officially ended on April 16, 1968. The National Civil Rights Museum now stands at the site of the Lorraine Motel.
In implementing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision outlawing schools segregated by race, the Memphis Board of Education ultimately agreed in 1961 to a plan to integrate the schools. The Memphis Branch of the NAACP recruited 200 applicants and 13 African American first graders were selected to integrate four elementary schools. This phased-in approach, adding a grade per year, was regarded as the safest way to desegregate the schools. Without violence on October 3, 1961, the students enrolled in Bruce, Gordon, Rozelle and Springdale elementary schools. In spite of the difficulties, these 13 “pint-sized pioneers” struck a fatal blow to school segregation and claimed their places in Memphis history.
George W. Lee was a political, business and civic leader. Lee was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Expeditionary Force and an active black combat officer during WWI. Lee served as a Tennessee Republican Executive Committeeman and seconded the nomination of Robert Taft for President 1952 at the Republican Convention. Lee served as the orator and author of Beale Street and as the Order of the Elks Grand Commissioner of Education. In 1973, his portrait was placed in the Tennessee State Capital. George has a historical marker located near 512 Beale Street.
George Jackson established the first drug store in Memphis to be owned and operated by a Black person. In 1893, George founded the Jackson Drug Store, also known as New Era Pharmacy. George received degrees from Oberlin College and the University of Michigan School of Pharmacy. George was also a charter member of the Memphis Chapter, NAACP.
Rufus Thomas Jr. was a legendary entertainer known throughout the United States for starting dance crazes of the 1960’s including “The Dog” and “The Funky Chicken.” Rufus was the organizer and master of ceremonies of the amateur shows at the Palace Theatre in the 1940’s and 1950’s. BB King and Bobby “Blue” Bland performed at these amateur shows put on by Rufus and Nat D. Williams, making Beale Street the home of the Blues. Rufus also had the first hit records for both Sun and Stax Music Labels, the now historic music labels of Memphis.
Nat D. Williams was the first black radio announcer in Memphis. In 1948, Nat broadcasted for WDIA, was the co-founder of the Cotton Makers Jubilee and is credited with giving the celebration its name. Nat also was a teacher in the Memphis City Schools. In 1935, Nat began Amateur Night on Beale Street at the old Palace Theater. Nat has a historical marker on Beale Street near Jerry Lee Lewis’ Café.
Brothers Clarence, Andrew and Cornelius Gillis were black entrepreneurs and businessmen that owned a successful grocery store on Polk Street. They eventually opened a wholesale and retail grocery store on Beale Street. “The Gillis Brothers” would also open one of the first first-class hotels for Blacks.
Randle Catron was a songwriter at STAX Records for Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and other prominent music figures. Randle was also Executive Director of the Beale Street Development Corporation, which secured funding from the Federal Government in 1982 to revitalize Beale Street into the entertainment district we have today. Randle also owned and operated the Historic Daisy Theatre, which still stands on Beale Street.
William Christopher “W.C.” Handy was a composer and songwriter and was the first person to publish in the blues genre. Handy took blues from a regional music style to national popularity. Handy helped establish Beale Street as the Home of the Blues. A historical marker honoring WC Handy sits in front of Handy Park near Club Handy.
Robert “Bob” Reed Church was the first black millionaire in the South. Church was a prominent businessman and entrepreneur that played a key role in establishing Beale Street as a prominent neighborhood and haven for black Americans during Reconstruction. In 1899, Memphis did not provide recreational facilities for black citizens. Robert Church invested in an area which contained a playground and a large concert hall where black theatrical groups could perform. The park now bears his name. Church Park is located at the far east end of Beale Street and Ida B. Wells.

Black History with the Grizzlies

Why Black History Month is Important
Supporting Black Owned Businesses
Memphis Grizzlies HBCU Night 2020 Recap
Talking HBCUs, Black History Month with Robert Covington
2021 Black History Month

African American Authors

Interested in learning more through African American Literature? Dive into this list of books by Black authors, curated by the Memphis Public Library.