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Signature City Memphis

Program No. 12347RJ
Learn the unique story of Memphis, from its blues and rock ’n’ roll to its National Civil Rights Museum, from the role of the Mississippi River to artistry of antebellum architecture.

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At a Glance

Memphis — home of the blues, birthplace of rock ’n’ roll — beckons you to experience its panorama of history, heritage and culture, and discover what makes it special from the local experts who really know the city’s soul. Trace the transformation of the Old South into the New from King Cotton to the National Civil Rights Museum. Experience Memphis’ outstanding museums, beautiful parks and botanical gardens, and the distinctive architecture of its churches and old mansions. Take field trips to iconic places like Beale Street, Graceland and Sun Studios, and hear the music that reflects Memphis.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Learn the story of Memphis blues and delve into the lives of legends from the “Father of the Blues” W. C. Handy to “The King” Elvis Presley.
  • Study the mighty Mississippi River’s environmental influence.
  • Visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel to trace events of the movement and Dr. King's assassination.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign
by Michael K. Honey
The definitive history of the epic struggle for economic justice that became Martin Luther King Jr.'s last crusade. Memphis in 1968 was ruled by a paternalistic "plantation mentality" embodied in its good-old-boy mayor, Henry Loeb. Wretched conditions, abusive white supervisors, poor education, and low wages locked most black workers into poverty. Then two sanitation workers were chewed up like garbage in the back of a faulty truck, igniting a public employee strike that brought to a boil long-simmering issues of racial injustice. With novelistic drama and rich scholarly detail, Michael Honey brings to life the magnetic characters who clashed on the Memphis battlefield: stalwart black workers; fiery black ministers; volatile, young, black-power advocates; idealistic organizers and tough-talking unionists; the first black members of the Memphis city council; the white upper crust who sought to prevent change or conflagration; and, finally, the magisterial Martin Luther King Jr., undertaking a Poor People's Campaign at the crossroads of his life, vilified as a subversive, hounded by the FBI, and seeing in the working poor of Memphis his hopes for a better America. 16 pages of illustrations
Memphis Beat : The Lives and Times of America's Musical Crossroads
by Larry Nager
This book fills in what isn't so familiar: Memphis, it reveals, is our great cultural mixing board, where all the black and white folk have met and done musical business for two centuries or more. Larry Nager, former music editor of the "Memphis Commercial Appeal," offers more than a casual history. His chronicle reaches back into the nineteenth century, when Memphis was a wild frontier town full of whiskey, fiddle players, and minstrelsy. It hits cruising speed at the turn of the century, as W. C. Handy discovered the blues, women like Lil Armstrong and Memphis Minnie kept up with the men, and a Memphis deejay dreamed up the Grand Ole Opry. It chronicles the strange alchemy by which local rhythm 'n' blues, hard country, and black and white gospel got remade into powerful rock and roll in Sam Phillips's Sun Records studio on Union Avenue. The beat goes on into the '60s and the era of Stax and Hi Records - when the first integrated generations, raised on Sun 45s, started waxing their own sounds. And it follows Memphis even into contemporary times, through Big Star's adventures at Ardent Records, the difficult revival of Beale Street, and the birth of the House of Blues. There is triumph and tragedy here, and much in between - from the stalwart presence of lifelong musicians like Gus Cannon and Furry Lewis, through the horrific accident that killed Otis Redding, the Bar-Kays, and years and years of musical dreams.
My Life With Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Coretta Scott King
This personal, inspirational account of the history of the Civil Rights Movement describes the author's relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr., detailing their marriage, the events of the 1960s, and King's tragic assassination. Reprint. SLJ.
Elvis by the Presleys
by David Ritz
For the first time, the inside story of legendary entertainer Elvis Presley’s life as a husband, father, son, cousin, friend, spiritual seeker — Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, and other family members, come together to memorialize our greatest star in this stunningly illustrated companion to a major television special and longer-form documentary. Elvis by the Presleys is a uniquely fascinating treasure and serves as the essential companion to a major television special on CBS and, from Sony BMG, a longer-form documentary DVD and its related CD. Culled from hours of new family interviews conducted for the television special and DVD (much of it appearing exclusively in this book), enhanced with Elvis quotes, and illustrated with private family photographs and images of personal memorabilia from the archives of Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises, Elvis by the Presleys is an extraordinary document about an extraordinary figure.
Daddy King: An Autobiography
by Murtin Luther King, Sr.
Born in 1899 to a family of sharecroppers in Stockbridge, Georgia, Martin Luther King, Sr., came of age under the looming threat of violence at the hands of white landowners. Growing up, he witnessed his family being crushed by the weight of poverty and racism, and escaped to Atlanta to answer the calling to become a preacher. Before engaging in acts of political dissent or preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he would remain for more than four decades, King, Sr., earned high school and college diplomas while working double shifts as a truck driver—and he won the heart of his future wife, Alberta “Bunch” Williams. King, Sr., recalls the struggles and joys of his journey: the pain of leaving his parents and seven siblings on the family farm; the triumph of winning voting rights for blacks in Atlanta; and the feelings of fatherly pride and anxiety as he watched his son put his life in danger at the forefront of the civil rights movement. Originally published in 1980, Daddy King is an unexpected and poignant memoir.
Battling the Plantation Mentality: Memphis and the Black Freedom Struggle (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture)
by Laurie B. Green
African American freedom is often defined in terms of emancipation and civil rights legislation, but it did not arrive with the stroke of a pen or the rap of a gavel.No single event makes this more plain, Laurie Green argues, than the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike, which culminated in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Exploring the notion of "freedom" in postwar Memphis, Green demonstrates that the civil rights movement was battling an ongoing "plantation mentality" based on race, gender, and power that permeated southern culture long before--and even after--the groundbreaking legislation of the mid-1960s. With its slogan "I AM a Man!" the Memphis strike provides a clarion example of how the movement fought for a black freedom that consisted of not only constitutional rights but also social and human rights. As the sharecropping system crumbled and migrants streamed to the cities during and after World War II, the struggle for black freedom touched all aspects of daily life. Green traces the movement to new locations, from protests against police brutality and racist movie censorship policies to innovations in mass culture, such as black-oriented radio stations. Incorporating scores of oral histories, Green demonstrates that the interplay of politics, culture, and consciousness is critical to truly understanding freedom and the black struggle for it.
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6 days
5 nights
11 meals
5 B 3 L 3 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Memphis, TN
Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis - Beale Street

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m. Program check-in at 5:00 p.m. Stroll to Beale Street for dinner is a two block walk. Midnight is the cut off time for loud music in Memphis. Our hotel is right at Beale St. so be prepared for loud music. Walk to King's Palace is 2 blocks.

Afternoon: Road Scholar check in is at 5:00 pm. After you have your room assignment, come to the lobby area conference room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to learn when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review Covid-19 protocols and will adhere to local Covid-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

Memphis Field Trip, Sun Studio, Peabody Ducks
Memphis, TN
Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis - Beale Street

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach at select spots during Memphis field trip. Climbing stairs to second floor at Sun Studio-no elevator. Walking from Peabody Hotel to Hampton Inn is approximately 2 blocks.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: This morning we will meet our local expert and travel by motorcoach to explore the sights and sounds that made Memphis the "Home of the Blues" and the "Birthplace of Rock n Roll".

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will head over to Sun Studio, an iconic recording studio where some of the most famous artists recorded in the 1950s. Whether rock-and-roll or country, and genres in between, the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Ray Harris, Warren Smith, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis could be found there at one point or another. Led by an expert from Sun Studio, we’ll see where they made musical history. We'll continue our field trip with our group leader to see the Pyramid and Welcome Center.

Dinner: Take time to sample some of the local cuisine that suits your taste. This meal is on your own.

Evening: At leisure.

Beethoven Club Performance, Metal Museum, Rock & Soul Museum
Memphis, TN
Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis - Beale Street

Activity note: Motor coach will take participants to the Beethoven Club. Standing and walking in the Rock n Soul Museum and the Metal Museum up to an hour.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, our coach will transport the group to the Beethoven Club where we will enjoy a special presentation with a professional historian who literally “wrote the book” on Beale Street and the blues — an illustrated and entertaining project on the rich variety of music in Memphis through the years. Sit back and enjoy the professional historian/musician perform a private piano session for our group. After an energetic lecture and performance, we will visit the Memphis Metal Museum. Located on 3.2 acres overlooking the Mississippi River, south of downtown Memphis, is one of Memphis' best kept secrets. This property which includes three historic buildings was formerly part of a public health service hospital and is now the residence for artists, a museum, and a library.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will meet meet up at the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, the first museum ever jointly developed by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of American History. Debuted in August 2004, it came out of a traveling exhibition on the roots of uniquely American music in the South, from “field hollers” to work songs, blues, country, and gospel. These more countrified forms gradually met and mingled with their urban cousins: blues, jazz, and what became rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and soul music.. It charts the story of a field of music that has had a tremendous impact on popular culture and lifestyles from the mid-20th Century through today. It also documents the story of musical pioneers who overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create music that changed our world. The museum’s digital audio guide lets us move at our own pace on a self-guided visit through seven galleries of audio-visual programs, instruments, costumes, other musical treasures, and more than 300 minutes of information including more than 100 songs.

Dinner: Dinner will be at the famous B.B. King's Blues Club. The house band is B.B. King’s All Stars, and guest musicians include some of the best in the business for one of the most diverse, sophisticated line ups of modern blues and R&B in Memphis — a good show every night of the week. Feel free to jump up and dance or sit back and relax. This is the real deal! Then go out and hear music up and down Beale Street on your own.

Evening: At leisure or continue the fun at B. B. King's Blues Club.

Elvis Lecture, Graceland Exploration,
Memphis, TN
Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis - Beale Street

Activity note: Walking through Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion has steps in a split level home with no elevator. Walking around the Presley property involves standing in museum's up to an hour. Plenty of seating for weary visitors.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll start the day off with a lecture about Elvis Presley before traveling to Graceland to explore the 14-acre estate Graceland that was the home of Elvis Presley. Now a virtual shrine with museums, films, and exhibits for a unique glimpse into the life and times of The King, we’ll explore Graceland Mansion on our own and see his personal mementos including gold and platinum awards. The Elvis Experience includes the Mansion audio-guided, Elvis' Custom Jets and Entertainment Complex, Automobile Museum and Discovery Exhibits. The average time spent on property is 3.5 - 4 hours.

Lunch: At a restaurant on the Graceland property.

Afternoon: Continue self exploration and music listening at Graceland. If anyone decides to leave early, they may call uber or catch a shuttle ride to the Rock & Soul Museum and walk back to the hotel, a 10-15 minute walk.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure.

Stax & National Civil Rights Museums, Blues Hall of Fame
Memphis, TN
Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis - Beale Street

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach to the National Civil Rights Museum and Stax Museum. Walking and standing at both museums for up to an hour or longer at the Civil Rights Museum.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: This morning, we will travel by motor coach to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, one of few museums dedicated to soul music, for a self-guided visit. Along with classic Stax artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Booker T and the MGs, Isaac Hayes, and the Staple Singers, the museum also celebrates the legacy of soul artists from Motown and other labels. We will learn about the gospel roots of soul from a carefully reassembled c.1906 Mississippi Delta church and dance along to Soul Train videos on the Express Yourself dance floor. The motor coach will drop us off at the National Civil Rights Museum, a privately-owned complex of museums and historic buildings built around the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. We’ll follow a timeline that charts the course of events around the assassination and the impact and legacy of the civil rights movement.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch, continue at the National Civil Rights Museum for those who wish to delve deeply into the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis. This well done museum can take up to 3 hours if you go to all the exhibits and the across the street house where the assassinate looked out a window and shot Dr. Martin Luther King. Your Road Scholar badge will get you into the Blues Hall of Fame, which is across the street from the Civil Rights Museum. The mission and focus of the Blues Hall of Fame is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performances, expand awareness of blues, and ensure the future of American art form. We can catch the trolley back to the hotel on our own and at our own leisure. We'll meet up in the lobby to ride to dinner at the end of the day.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

Program Concludes
Memphis, TN

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At the hotel. Our program concludes after breakfast.

Morning: We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.