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African-American History Celebration

  • Published
  • By SSgt. George Thomas
  • 164th Airlift Wing
When one thinks about Memphis, TN, several images come to mind. More often than not, these images include Barbeque, Beale Street and the Mississippi River. But when one takes a deeper look into the history of Memphis, they begin to see how this city played a major role in the history of African-American culture. And this rich history is exactly what was celebrated by members of the 164th Airlift Wing in Memphis Tennessee on the 4th of Feb as the Base Heritage Foundation held a social event aimed at reflecting upon this history at the STAX Museum of American Soul Music, a noted musical landmark.

This event featured a tour of the museum, which takes visitors through the humble beginnings of the recording company, and showcases many of the famous artists that represented the label, such as Booker T and the MG's, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. Along the tour, one realizes that STAX Records was more than just a label. It was a culture. While segregation was fervently supported in the South during STAX's formative years in the 1960s, STAX was one of the most successfully integrated companies in the country - from top management and administration to its artists. With more than 200 employees, it was the fifth-largest African-American owned business in the United States during its time, and was the most successful record label ever to come out of Memphis, Tennessee.

Interestingly, both STAX Records and the 164th Airlift Wing have a date in common during their histories. In 1961, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton combined the first two letters of their last names and officially formed STAX Records. In that same year, the 164th's era of military airlift began.

Also included in the event were performances by local artists performing a collection of songs made famous by STAX recording artists. By the nights end, all in attendance were treated to an informative lesson on the intertwined history between Memphis, soul music and civil rights, and the roles each played in African American History.