The Hi-Hat Club Marker
Jazz, R&B, and the blues have been popular since the 1950s and the Hi-Hat Club, along with many others, was the reason this huge change in music could happen. The Hi-Hat Club hosted African American bands and solo acts, names like B.B. King and Louis Armstrong. This club was part of the Chitlin Circuit and Palmers Crossing, which were important to the black community in expanding Civil Rights to all races. Clubs like the Hi-Hat Club had a significant impact on the African American community, and helped to advance equality.
Backstory and Context
Music has always been something people all over the world, no matter race, age, gender, or background, can relate too. There are hundreds of different types of music now, but all these sounds had to start somewhere, and the Hi-Hat Club was a nightclub that helped lead the way for music development. Blues and jazz music filled the club throughout the week, with names like James Brown and Tina Turner gracing the stage. Since segregation was still happening everywhere, this nightclub allowed the African American crowd to come and party and listen to really good music with good people. The owner of the Hi-Hat Club was Milton Barnes, a very popular public figure. If it wasn’t for Barnes the circuit probably wouldn’t have been as positive and productive as it was.
The Chitlin Circuit was a major milestone for civil rights. The circuit ranged from Massachusetts over to Michigan down to Texas and over to Florida. It went through 20 states and included many of the major cities in each state. This circuit made it possible for Rock and Roll to become popular, and made it accessible for the African American community. Segregation made it impossible for both races to enjoy music together, so the “good” music was often for the white crowd only. Having the circuit made it possible for the white crowd to follow the African American music scene, and listen to rock and roll. The circuit helped integrate whites and blacks, and even this small effort had a huge impact.
Milton Barnes was a very successful African American man who made a living buying, renovating, and building businesses. In 1935, Barnes opened one of his first endeavors, a laundry mat called Barnes Cleaners. The baseball team Hattiesburg Black Sox’s were established in 1941, under the ownership of Milton Barnes. Barnes owned this team because he was part of the Independent Negro League Community, which helped integrate sports, from all-white to a mixed game. In 1940, Barnes opened the Embassy Club, which was a club for African Americans. It was short lived, however, due to a fire that engulfed the club. Speculation on the fire has occurred, but it was ruled accidental. After the fire at the Embassy Club, Barnes reopened the club in 1957 as the Hi-Hat Club. Barnes owned many businesses and was a successful man in his adventures. He believed strongly that the black community should start to thrive and be integrated; he believed in fairness.
The Hi-Hat Club was for the African American community, because of segregation. Usually, the performers would travel on large buses through Palmers Crossing. This Crossing was a safe haven for the black community, where they could be without ridicule. Palmers Crossing was an important place during this time, when civil rights were still being pushed and the government was still pushing back. So, the crossing had made places along the way to help the African American community. They had schools, community centers, and churches for refuge and knowledge. There were other clubs opened along the crossing, like The Elks Lodge, Club Desire, Dashiki, and many more. One major reason the Hi-Hat Club’s location was picked, was because of the Palmers Crossing importance. Performances at the Hi-Hat Club included Ray Charles, B.B. King, Sam Cooke, Louis Armstrong, Tina Turner, Otis Redding, and many, many more. These performers all made a significant impact not only on music, but with helping push for equal rights altogether. This Club was such a success that it was recorded that white school kids would come in on buses and have to sit outside the club and across the street to listen to the music.
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