Aretha Franklin’s birthplace

Taken from my new favorite site Backroads of American Music, stunning photos by Justin Fox Burks

“We give you the birthplace of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. When I say birthplace, I mean, Aretha’s mother pushed Aretha out of her own body and into the world on a kitchen table inside this very house, at 406 Lucy Avenue on March 25, 1942. Take note of a few of the home’s prominent features. First, it’s abandoned. Second, it’s dilapidated, and I would say uninhabitable if there weren’t the obvious signs of squatters present inside. Third, it lacks any mention of its significance to history. Now can you imagine this happening to one of the founding fathers of our nation? Or a grand figure in American letters? Even the little shack in Tupelo, Mississippi where Elvis Presley was born has a historic marker and a tour guide to take $10 from you and point at the two rooms inside.”
(Emphasis mine)
It is absolutely criminal that this important piece of America’s heritage is in such disrepair and I hold that this lack of due memorialization is entirely racist in nature. America in general and Memphis’s relationship in particular with its racial history is frightfully inadequate at best and damn near sacreligious at worst. Memphis is blighted by monuments to the Confederacy, most infamously in the form of the statue of William Bedford Forrest, Confederate General and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, which occupies a position of honor a Memphis city park but lacks due memorialization of its rich African American history.
The city has struggled recently fiscally but neglecting such crucial material culture of American History as the birthplace of Aretha Franklin is inexcusable. The city of Memphis has made some strides in recent years to save some of its unique musical legacy (the amazing Stax Museum, etc) but has never made a very strong to commitment to memorializing and revitalizing its unique musical culture for any artists not named Elvis. Short sighted and expensive revitalization attempts such as the Pyramid, downtown trolley and FedEx Forum rob scarce and vital funding better spent on rescuing Memphis’s holy shrines such as this one. Memphis must embrace its identity as the cradle of African American music and move forward accordingly. Preservation and remodeling of an important historical site like The Queen of Soul’s birthplace could be a first step to making amends on this front and healing the wounds of segregation which continue to hinder Memphis.

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