I’m sad to report that we were unable to visit Memphis because a barge had gone aground in the night and the Coast Guard had blocked all traffic on the river until they could move the barge. We had gotten up early for our shore excursion to Graceland that was scheduled to depart the boat at 7:30am. It was not until about 11:30am that we finally had an announcement from the captain that we had gotten the all clear to proceed down the river. Unfortunately, we were still a couple of hours away from Memphis by boat and would need to forego our visit. With the built-up traffic on the river the captain did not believe that we would be able to stop and still make it to our next stop in Mississippi the following day.
Memphis, with a population of about 625,000, residents is the second largest city in Tennessee after Nashville. Modern day Memphis was founded in 1819 by John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson. Memphis grew to be one of the largest cities if the Antebellum South based on its wealth of cotton plantations. After the Civil War and the end of slavery, the city continued to grow into the 20th century becoming one of the largest world markets for cotton and lumber.
Memphis is home to Tennessee’s largest African-American population and has played a prominent role in the American Civil Rights Movement. Leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated there in 1968 after activities supporting a strike by city sanitation workers.
Memphis has become one of the nation’s leading commercial centers in transportation and logistics. Its largest employer is FedEx which maintains it global air hub at Memphis International Airport. In 2021, Memphis was the world’s second busiest cargo airport and is also the fifth busiest inland water port in the US. Memphis is also a center for media and entertainment, notably its historic music scene with clubs on Beale Street.
In the morning while we were awaiting news about the boat’s delay we attended an interesting 2019 documentary film on Linda Ronstadt called Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, chronicling her life from birth to her diagnosis of Parkinson’s in 2011. We enjoyed listening to her many hit recordings which were all familiar to us. It would later become known to her that she had progressive supranuclear palsy and not Parkinson’s.
In the afternoon a group from Road Scholar was having a lecture on Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis and they asked anyone on the boat to join them for the lecture. It was interesting to learn more about the garbage strike and politics in Memphis that led Martin to be in town during the time when he was assassinated. He was not intending to be in town at that time.
We also attended a lecture about the beginnings of Jazz in New Orleans by the Riverlorian. She provided an interesting talk on the Jazz bands that performed all over New Orleans from river boats to the area of town called Storyville, where there were whore houses and bars for white business men. This area of town was a place where the race of the prostitutes was promoted and advertised which was not possible at the time in other parts of the country.
Mark and his fellow passengers finished the 2000-piece puzzle they had been working on for the last week or so.