The Center for Southern Folklore was founded in
1972 to document the people and traditions of the
Memphis/Delta region. Over the last forty years,
we’ve visited rural Delta homes and urban
Memphis communities, to record men and women
whose voices are rarely included in the history
books, but whose stories, songs and lifestyles are
the very basis of Southern culture.
Located in downtown Memphis the Center provides
Memphians, students and tourists from across the
globe a chance to learn about many facets of
Memphis and the Delta.
Called by Michael Taft of the Library of Congress as one of the most extensive archives of ethnographic
materials in the country, the Center has amassed
audio recordings, film and video footage television,
historical and contemporary photographs, printed
materials, and other artifacts that present mule
traders and fife makers, folk artists and blues
performers, salsa and soul musicians and much
more. One of the centerpieces of the Multimedia
Archives is the work of Reverend L. O. Taylor, a
Memphis minister who used photographs, films,
audio recordings, and printed materials to tell the
stories of his community over a span of 40 years.
Revenues from the sale of the archival photographs,
CDs, and DVDs help the Center match a grant from
the National Endowment for the Arts that supports
our work to digitize our collections and insure the
preservation of these priceless images, recordings,
and other materials for future generations.
Memphis Music & Heritage Festival
Each Labor Day Weekend we produce the
Memphis Music & Heritage Festival. It is the
Center’s signature event. With urban Memphis as
our backdrop we showcase and celebrate of the
music, culture, arts, and rhythms of the
Memphis/Delta region. On five stages we present
musicians, dancers, cooks, talkers, poets, folk
artists, and craft vendors allowing festival-goers to
celebrate Memphis’ musical roots and also enjoy
many contemporary twists to our musical heritage.As one first time festival goer said, The Festival fits
the entire spirit of the city into a few downtown
blocks. It feels like we’re in some big metropolitan
city, It’s really refreshing to see people who are
warm to each other, just listen to music and relax.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be. After people
leave the Festival, they see each other differently.
Their lives change, and for the better.
Cultural Tours and Educational Programs
The Center for Southern Folklore offers a wide
variety of events, programs, and customized tours
that showcase the music and cultural history of the
Memphis/Delta region. To top off the programs we
serve our yummy southern comfort food.
This is the area of the Center where you can watch
films, see folk art, and enjoy a variety of
photographic exhibits. On a given night you might
see a show by southern soul bluesman Bobby Rush,
a jookin’ contest by some of Memphis’ best
dancers, or a Memphis Music Revue by Memphis
Diva Joyce Cobb.
The Folklore Store is the Center’s version of
Alice’s Restaurant: part general store, art gallery
and music hall. You can purchase regional folk art,
archival photographs, great CDs and DVDs
produced by the Center and regional performers
while you listen to blues, jazz, hip hop, rockabilly,
gospel and lots more. And you can sit down and
relax, sample our peach cobbler, mac and cheese,
meatless greens and hot water cornbread with
coffee and other beverages.