|© Euphus Ruth 1999|
[famously known as Memphis Minnie] as well as her husband, Ernest Lawlars, who recorded under the name "Lil' Son Joe," were buried in the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery in Walls, Mississippi. The small, rural town sits about twenty minutes due south from Beale Street on Highway 61. The headstone memorial unveiling took place on the morning of October, 13th, 1996 in beautiful fall sunshine and was recorded for radio presentation by the BBC of London. The ceremony was attended by over 90 people including Minnie’s sister Daisy and 33 members of the extended Douglas family, many of whom had no idea of their relative’s powerful musical legacy. Bonnie Raitt financed the memorial stone which bears engraved roses and a ceramic cameo portrait.
Global Reverberations: Other Accounts
The Memphis Minnie marker and the New Hope Baptist Church lie between Highway 61 and the Mississippi River, and cotton fields surround the church and the adjacent cemetery. The front of the monument has a small picture of Minnie and her birth and death dates. The headstone inscription composed by Minnie biographer Paul Garon reads:
“The hundreds of sides Minnie recorded are the perfect material to teach us about the blues. For the blues are at once general, and particular, speaking for millions, but in a highly singular, individual voice. Listening to Minnie’s songs we hear her fantasies, her dreams, her desires, but we will hear them as if they were our own."
|© Euphus Ruth 1999|
“This was a truly extraordinary event,” declared Blues-L member William Morgan, “and so much of the credit…should go to Skip Henderson of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund, which has now been responsible for nine such monuments [and] goes much further than the placing of a headstone” in honor of Memphis Minnie, who died in 1973 and lay buried in an unmarked grave.
© Euphus Ruth 1999
|Minnie biographer Paul Garon at the ceremony in 1998|
“All of us white folk were invited to stand and introduce ourselves and describe our interests in being there. I could go on about what the event meant to me -- about how the prodigal daughter had finally been welcomed home without further judgment; about how good and evil and black and white had converged and cared without incident; and how I came to love the people there for making it so. But it's enough to say that this event was one of those rare occasions in which all was right and fair, and the way it should be.”
|Detroit Free Press, July 13, 1997.|
“We have found ‘what’ we are going to erect,” they informed, “now we must find ‘where.’” Most folks didn't know exactly where the blues singer had been laid to rest. A headstone was erected for Son House in the summer of 1997.
 The Detroit (MI) Free Press, Oct 11, 1995, p.7C.
 “Blues Editorial,” Detroit Blues 2:4 (Winter 1996-97): 5-6.