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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Greenwood in Leflore County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

Elks Hart Lodge No. 640

 
 
Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 Marker (Front) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, September 13, 2014
1. Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 Marker (Front)
Inscription.
Front
During the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, the Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 at this site was one of the most important venues for rhythm and blues in the Delta. Particularly during the segregation era, fraternal organizations such as the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World (the “black Elks”) were central to African American political, cultural, and social life, and played an important role in the Civil Rights movement.

Rear
The Elks Lodge The Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World (IBPOEW) was formed in 1898 in Cincinnati, Ohio, by African Americans who were systematically excluded from joining the “white” Elks organization, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE). By 1899 twelve lodges of the IBPOEW, which became commonly known as the “black Elks,” were established in eight states, including Mississippi, and in 1902 a female auxiliary group, the Daughters of the IBPOEW was founded. African American railway workers, notably Pullman Porters, were instrumental in the formation of new chapters of the black Elks, particularly in the South. State presidents of the Mississippi Elks have included Greenwood chapter members Edward V. Cochran, W. J. Bishop, and Bertrand Antoine, all Past Grand Exalted Rulers.

During
Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 Marker (Rear) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, September 13, 2014
2. Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 Marker (Rear)
the segregation era, when most hotels, auditoriums, and halls were off limits to African Americans, the lodges of the black Elks provided important spaces for social, political, and economic gatherings. Other fraternal organizations that played a similar role included African American chapters of the Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Knights of Columbus, and Shriners. The black Elks were organized around principles of “Charity, Justice, Brotherly and Sisterly Love and Fidelity,” and were deeply involved in fighting for and educating its members about economic and civil rights. In 1927 the IBPOEW formed a Civil Rights Commission whose work helped establish a legal framework for later protests during the civil rights era. Here in Greenwood, local civil rights activist and Elk member Cleveland Jordan arranged for the Elks hall to be the first meeting place for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) upon their arrival in Greenwood in 1962. Part of SNCC’s voter registration campaign involved the teaching of “freedom songs,” which usually drew from religious traditions but were sometimes based on rhythm & blues hits.

The IBPOEW was the largest of the black fraternal organizations, and along with chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, played an important role in providing venues for touring blues and R&B artists. Members were
Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 Marker photos image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, September 13, 2014
3. Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 Marker photos
** Click picture for more detail **
encouraged to sell tickets to ensure high turnouts. From the 1940s through the ’90s artists performing at the Greenwood lodge included B. B. King, T-Bone Walker, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Percy Mayfield, “Little” Junior Parker, Roy Brown, Ruth Brown, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, Memphis Slim, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Little Milton, the Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, Johnny Ace, the Five Royales, Solomon Burke, Brook Benton, Ivory Joe Hunter, Smiley Lewis, Etta James, Charles Brown, Ernie K-Doe, Bobby Rush, Lee “Shot” Williams, and Chick Willis.
 
Erected 2005 by the Mississippi Blues Commission.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
 
Location. 33° 30.712′ N, 90° 10.454′ W. Marker is in Greenwood, Mississippi, in Leflore County. Marker is at the intersection of East Scott Street and Avenue F, on the left when traveling west on East Scott Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 106 East Scott Street, Greenwood MS 38930, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Greenwood Underpass (approx. ¼ mile away); Furry Lewis (approx.
Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 Marker Area image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, September 13, 2014
4. Elks Hart Lodge No. 640 Marker Area
0.4 miles away); "Black Power" Speech (approx. half a mile away); Baptist Town (approx. half a mile away); Greenwood's First Artesian Well (approx. 0.6 miles away); WGRM Radio Studio (approx. 0.7 miles away); Battery 'C' (approx. ¾ mile away); First United Methodist Church (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Greenwood.
 
Also see . . .  Mississippi Blues Trail site. (Submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicCivil RightsEntertainmentFraternal or Sororal Organizations
 
IBPOEW Elks Hart Lodge image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, September 13, 2014
5. IBPOEW Elks Hart Lodge
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 265 times since then and 30 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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