Noted author and CEO of GrantHouse Publishers, Inc., George C. Grant, is a retired college administrator with uncanny insight about what makes a “good book.”
Gifted public relations principal and award-winning photographer, Markham L. “Mark” Stansbury Sr., who has photographed five U.S. presidents, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, the Beatles, the Supremes, Isaac Hayes and Elvis Presley, is a trailblazing radio personality with a nose for news.
The pair got together and collaborated on all things Beale Street in the 1960s.
That collaboration has resulted in a fascinating and intriguing chronicle called, “Beale Street Unforgotten: A Business and Landmarks Directory and Gallery of the 1960s Beale Street Area.”
Grant and Stansbury are native Memphians, who spent their youth exploring and relishing the many venues of Beale Street before its decline.
They are paying a debt of love to Beale with their time, effort and resources to restore those treasured memories.
“People under 60, even native Memphians, may not be able to appreciate the work for lack of general knowledge about the landmark street,” said Stansbury. “That fact prompted us to create a thoroughly researched and written history of Beale Street so that the book is well received and fully appreciated.”
Just before its decline, which also took place in the 1960s, Beale Street was a bustling mecca of African-American businesses, professional offices, and other thriving establishments.
The authors recreate with documented historical facts and vibrantly stunning photos what it was like to walk down the iconic lane.
“The publication, ‘Beale Street Unforgotten – A Business and Landmarks Directory and Gallery of the 1960s Beale Street Area,’ will introduce to some, remind others and restore, in part, knowledge of the culture, content, influence and layout of Memphis’ Beale Street,” said Grant.
Countless hours have been invested in researching, assembling and organizing information and photographs about the historic Beale Street district of the 1960s for the directory, according to both authors.
Drafts of the directory have been shared with colleagues and friends who were personally familiar with the Beale Street area in its 1960s heyday.
“We are pleased that those who have previewed the work have been generous with encouragement, as well as their critiques and suggestions for its content and design,” said Grant.
Beale Street was the center of African-American culture in the 1960s. Rich in the vestiges of its antebellum beginnings in 1841, the street stood as remarkable testament of the resourcefulness and ingenuity of African-American craftsmen and the blossoming wealth of music genres coming out of that rich history.
It was a thriving area of African-American commerce and culture until the yellow fever epidemic hit in the 1870s, and later epidemics in the1890s.
The street rebounded and evolved through the decades from pool halls, gambling dens and houses of ill repute to legitimate businesses, shops, entertainment, theatres, professional offices, barbershops, beauty shops, restaurants and other flourishing enterprises.
GrantHouse Publishers boast more than 180 titles penned by 150 authors since its founding in 1989.
Grant recently retired after a career of more than 50 years as a college and university library administrator and dean at six academic institutions.
Stansbury was not admitted to Memphis State University upon graduating from Booker T. Washington. But his career in higher education afforded him the opportunity to serve as assistant to the president in four administrations at the same institution, now the University of Memphis.
They hope their new book will begin to revive and restore the true legacy of Memphis’ Beale Street. Also, another Beale Street history book is in the works and is scheduled for release in 2022, Grant said.
“Prepare to take a memorable1960s trip down our ‘forgotten’ Beale Street, from the riverfront down through the exciting venues,” said Stansbury. “Relive the glory and the legacy of this wonderful landmark.”
The book will be released during Juneteenth weekend, Friday and Saturday, June 18-19. Further details will be available in the coming week.