Working with the Crossroads to Freedom Project for three summers now, I have learned the value of the an individual’s story. One summer our motto for the Crossroads to Freedom Project was “Stories of Struggle, Stories of People, Stories of Memphis,” and I still find that statment to be profoundly true when it comes to this year’s focus. This year, I am working with the Cotton Carnival and the Cotton Maker’s Jubilee team to find out the stories behind these two different Carnivals in Memphis. Going into this project, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew that the Cotton Carnival was for the whites and the Cotton Maker’s Jubilee was for blacks, but last week, my team had the opportunity to interview two different people who had two totally different perspectives about the carnivals. With only interviewing two people, I have come to realize how important the individual’s story is when it comes to this project. To some the carnivals were seen as lavish and enjoyable among all people whether white or black and to others, it is seen as a celebration of cotton among the social elites in the city. And I am sure as we move throughout the rest of the summer, we will find out other perspectives. I am particularly interested in finding out how these two carnivals shaped segregation in Memphis and what impact it has left on the city and those individuals that lived during the time that the two carnivals were segregated.
I am particularly interested in the formation of the Cotton Maker’s Jubilee, it has been criticized as still being a celebration of cotton to some people because the name is associated with slavery, but through the research that I have done this summer, I have learned more about Dr. R.Q. Venson’s vision and how it began. During one carnival, he took his nephew to see the Cotton Carnival and when he asked his nephew did he like it he replied no because ”all the negroes were horses.” This inspired Venson to create what was originally called the Cotton Maker’s Fiesta and then it changed to Jubilee in celebration of Negro men and women. I hope to learn more about how this carnival shaped the black community and how the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King affected both of the carnivals. For now, the cotton team is seeking more stories and constantly learning more about these two events.