Memphis might well be what one would consider a master's class in history. From the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, from the birth of the blues and rock to the death of the King, the city's past is full of lore and legend, tragedy and triumph.
Much of the city's history happened along the banks of the Mississippi River; the Big Muddy was a trading route, the route to freedom, to enslavement, and to prosperity, depending on which century or decade one examines. Much of this history is told downtown, at the Mud Island complex, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the museum at the Cotton Exchange. Beale Street was once the epicenter of African American business in Memphis, and soon became the focal point for the blues - which influenced other hometown musicians, most notably Elvis Presley. His story, and that of others influenced by the blues, is told at Graceland, Stax and Sun Studio. And great stories of prosperity are found in some of the city's grandest old homes - the Woodruff-Fontaine House and the Pink Palace.
Today's Memphis has been shaped greatly by its past - and starting a tour of the city with a visit to its historic sites is the best way to get a feel for the birthplace of the blues and rock - and the city that's still the King of Cotton.