fun, insightful, safe traveling in your own backyard
My family being a family that loves to travel has definitely struggled with this pandemic. It is almost like caging a free spirit. When the opportunity presented itself for us to do some traveling, we did not hesitate. West Tennessee Day Trippin’ invited my family to go on their African American History Tour. With having a mixed family, it is important for all of my family to learn about Black history, It was a great chance to travel a bit and gain some knowledge about things that we did not already know. The trip wound up being so much fun, and we all walked away with some great information. This trip was also a way to show people that there are great social distance and safe activities that you can do and not have to be trapped in the house. Many are homeschooling their children, as well. This is the perfect family activity and can be made into a field trip for the children. West Tn Day Trippin’ has other itineraries too aside from the African American tour that you can check out. Just visit their website, linked above and contact them to plan your next trip in West TN.
Here is the 2-day itinerary for the tour:
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Alex haley museum & interpretive museum
Visiting the Alex Haley Museum was a very educational and fun experience. Out our guide was up beat and had plenty of jokes to deliver. It was quite impressive seeing the inside of the home. It was so beautifully decorated. Just seeing that some Black people lived so prestigiously back then was so inspiring. It was quite the experience. Here is a little brief background about Alex Haley and the museum:
Born August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York, Alex Haley made his was down to Henning , TN where he lived the first five years of his life. He graduated from high school at the age of 15 years old, and enrolled at Alcorn A&M College in Mississippi. He transferred to Elizabeth City State Teachers College in North Carolina. He quit school at the age of 17 and enlisted as a seaman in the Coast Guard. To keep himself from being so bored in the ship, he bought himself a portable typewriter. This lead to him being a well renowned writer of the movie Roots and the Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Growing up in a Black household, especially being around your grandparents in the 90s, 95% have seen the movie Roots. It was a painful reality but a learning lesson for us a children. Knowing that the man that wrote the movie grew up not that far from Memphis was amazing. I would have never known if not for this trip. I wish my grandmother was feeling up to par, because she would have enjoyed this museum. This is one of the ones, that I feel everyone should go and learn about. Once schools get back open and corona wears down, this entire itinerary would be a perfect thing to add to the school’s curriculum. Black history is not just for Black people. I feel we should all know what that the school books are not teaching us. We are always going to the Martin Luther King Museum (nothing wrong with that at all), but I am here to let everyone know that there are other museums not far to visit and educate yourselves and/or your children.
Canaan baptist church
Built by the McCadden family in 1917, Canaan Baptist played a significant part in being a safe haven for the Black community during segregation. The McCadden’s were a skilled family of carpenters. We were not able to go inside if the church. It is still til this day an operating church. The tour guide at the Alex haley Museum said that it is a great church. The church is said to be the last example of the McCadden’s carpentry and woodwork.
The original gus's fried chicken
Funny thing is everyone who personally knows me knows that I am not a fan of fried chicken at all, but when I tell you this was the BEST chicken I have ever had in my life. Sorry, mama haha. The okra was on point as well. I had some from the one in Memphis and it was good, but clearly nothing beats the original. The staff was so hospitable. Our food was cooked to order, so it came out hot, steamy, and looking dreamy. We said our grace and dove right on in. We know it had to be good because my 7 month old nephew was praising God literally when he was eating the food. The were all so tickled, because we had never see it before. It was one of those moments where you wish you could have caught it on video. It was the great finish to the first day of the tour. It is a must visit spot for anyone in West TN or coming through West Tn. I love that it still has that old school feel. It really is kept original. It is Black-owned.
Day 2 was fun, because my brother was off work and was able to join us for the festivities. He really enjoyed himself and was getting content on his phone for himself. The Wells school built in 1925 by the Shelby County School system. The property was owned by an African American woman with the last name Washington. She wanted a place for her family to be able to get an education. It was named after Ida B. Wells. Sadly, there were not any records of this school until recently when someone just purchased the building. They served African American children of Shelby County until 1966. It is one of 500 surviving Rosenwald schools in the country. Fun fact is that they are thinking about making it into actual Airbnb, so I will definitely update you all if that happens. Ms. Washington is buried in the backyard and several of her family members are buried in the cemetery next door. It has had some renovations since the new owner took over about a year ago, but she has kept all of the original chalkboards and some of the original desks and utensils. The Pink Flamingo Event Planning Company operates out of the building currently.
If I had to be honest and choose a favorite of all of the locations, this would have to be the one. I am such a visual person, and I could just envision what it must have been like back then when this store was open. It just reminded me of a scene from a movie. The town looked like not much had changed. It just felt beyond authentic. Photographing this particular location was so special to me. During the Civil rights Movement they served Black Fayette County residents when other establishments refused. John and Viola McFerren also fought for the voting rights fro African Americans during the Tent City Movement. Tent City was also called Freedom Village. It was for African Americans who were evicted from their homes and blacklisted from buying amenities as a retaliation for registering to vote during the Civil Rights Movement (Source: Wikipedia). It lasted from around 1960 to 1962.
The Commissary BBQ Restaurant just so happened to be a bonus. They are not affiliated with the African American history portion of the Tour. Just to give some insight, this was not the original restaurant that was on the itinerary, but that original restaurant listed changed their operation times due to the pandemic, so WestTNDayTrippin’ decided to bring us back on towards Memphis for some good BBQ. Interestingly enough I had never has The Commissary’s BBQ before, so I was happy to try it. My favorite was the bbq nachos. I am a huge bbq person and very particular about food, and those nachos were the bomb.com.
I hope that you all enjoyed this journey with my family and I as we went #WestTnDayDrippin’ during the pandemic! The key message is to travel safe and wear your masks. Tripp said it best “For The Love of Tennessee, Travel Safe”!