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National R&B Hall of Fame Finds a Home

A digital rendering provided by A2H Engineers, Architects, of the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

State Often Called 'Birthplace of American Music' to House R&B Hall of Fame

The National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame recently announced that it has secured a deal to build a
world-class complex to house the institution dedicated to honoring the careers of R&B icons.

Marks, a Mississippi Delta town with a population of fewer than 2,000 people, is where the NRBHF headquarters' will be built. A groundbreaking ceremony for the hall will kick off the city's annual Mules & Blues Fest on Sept. 30. Planners hope to finish the project in two or three years.

"There is no other hall of fame in the world that is primarily focused and dedicated to the history of R&B music on a national scale," LaMont Robinson, CEO of the NRBHF, said in an Aug. 18, press release. "My vision to build a hall of fame to honor R&B and its contributions to civil rights, America, and the entire world is something that I don't take lightly."

Robinson added that one of the reasons Marks was chosen for the site was its connection to civil rights history.

"R&B goes hand and hand with the Civil Rights Movement, and one of the reasons for choosing Marks is the role that it played in Dr. Martin Luther King's 'Poor People's Campaign," he said.

In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. began his Poor People's Campaign, which demanded economic justice for poor Americans of all backgrounds, in the town. Less than a week before his assassination, while delivering what would be his final Sunday sermon on March 31, 1968, King described what he had seen in Marks in a powerful speech.

"I was in Marks, Mississippi the other day, which is in Quitman County, the poorest county in the United States. And I tell you I saw hundreds of black boys and black girls walking the streets with no shoes to wear," King, speaking at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., said. "I saw their mothers and fathers ... They raised a little money here and there; trying to get a little food to feed the children; trying to teach them a little something."

The effort, which was partially bankrolled by a GoFundMe campaign, the city also donated five (of a possible 30) acres of land to the project, and it has benefited from a $500,000 state grant, is the culmination of a 50-year effort to build a hall of fame dedicated to R&B musicians.

Founded by Robinson in 2010, the NRBHF has inducted over 200 since 2013.

R&B diva Dionne Warwick, a 2019 inductee, praised the news that Robinson's vision is finally coming into focus.

"First, let me say that I am honored to be included amongst the incredibly talented artists that hold the distinction of being inducted into the National Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame," she said. "It goes without saying, that the importance of this hall of fame being established gives recognition to the bodies of music that we as artists have been able to share with many who have and continue to support our careers."

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