(Continued from the February 2019 edition of NEWSCENE) A Seed is Planted in Dr. Venson’s Mind The Memphis Cotton Makers’ Jubilee (MCMJ) was an annual celebration that took place during the first week of May each year in the city of Memphis. The MCMJ was the only celebration promoted by the Black community in the United States that promoted the people that were the makers’ of an agricultural product. The celebration selected Royalty that reigned over the celebration. The celebration selected an Adult King, Queen, and Court; the Junior King, Queen, and Court; the King and Queen of the Royal Serenaders and Court; and Master White Gold, Miss White Gold and Court. These categories of Royalty represented an age range from age 6 though adulthood. For a number of years, the celebration selected a Spirit of Cotton, normally a young attractive female college student from one of the National Historical Black Colleges to serve as an ambassador for the celebration. The Spirit was selected in April and traveled the Unites States accompanied by a chaperon, Mrs. Ethyl Venson, (via) airlines. Each city visited was pre-coordinated by Dr. and Mrs. Venson. While in each city, the Spirit would be received by the City Mayor and other dignitaries. As the Jubilee’s Ambassador, she invited people to travel to Memphis during the time of the MCMJ May celebration. In 1934 Dr. R. Q. Venson was engaged to his wife to be, Ethyl Belle Horton. She was a very fair-skinned Negro, many that didn’t know her confused her with being white. One Saturday, during the first part of May in 1934, Ethyl and her six-year-old nephew, Quincy Johnson came by Dr. Venson’s office to eat lunch with him. Dr. Venson opened his office for a full day every Saturday for the convenience of his patients. There was a big parade being held that Saturday, which was promoted by the Memphis Cotton Carnival Association, an all-white organization. The parade route came down Main Street to Beale and then to Riverside Drive returning to its point of origin. The parade was only two blocks from Dr. Venson’s office. Dr. Venson, interested in making points with his wife to be, Ethyl, asked her nephew if he would like to go with him and view the parade. The young lad was overly joyed with the invitation and readily said yes. Dr. Venson gathered up the young Quincy and they were off to watch the parade. Dr. Venson found Main Street was lined with many spectators, both white and black people. The corner of Beale and Main was very crowded, so they walked a few blocks north from Beale Street to get a better view of the parade as it passed. He put young Quincy on his shoulder so he would be able to see everything. The crowd was cheering as the bands, floats, and other marching units marched down Main Street. After the parade was over, he was walking the young boy back to his office and asked the youngster, “How did you like the parade?” The young six-year old responded, “I didn’t like the parade.” Dr. Venson asked young Quincy, “Why not? The floats were beautifully decorated and the marching bands played many well-liked marching songs.” The young boy replied, “All the Black people in the parade were horses.” He was referring to the fact that the big floats were pulled by horses and all the smaller floats were pulled by Black men wearing long white coats. Those were the only Black people in the parade. At the time, Dr. Venson had no answer for the young boy. As they walked back to his office, Dr. Venson thought to himself, this parade left a negative impression in the young lad’s mind. He knew there were many other young Black children watching the parade and no doubt, they too had the same negative impression of the parade. He knew this was not a good image for the young Black children watching the parade. He felt something needed to be done about this horrible situation. When he got back to his office, he told Ethyl about his conversation with her nephew regarding the parade and Quincy’s perception of the parade. Dr. Venson knew most of the members on the board of the organization promoting the parade. On the Monday following the parade, when he was to take his noon walk on Beale Street, he decided to walk to the organization’s headquarters, which was located on North Main, only 8 or 9 blocks from Dr. Venson’s office. When he got to the building where the Memphis Cotton Carnival’s office was located, he asked to speak to the board, as they were having a meeting. Dr. Venson was granted permission to address the board. They knew Dr. Venson, but had no idea what he wanted to talk about. According to Dr. Venson, he told the board about the negative impression the young boy ha regarding the parade. He asked the board if they could include Black people in their next parade in a more dignified fashion The President of the Association responded, “Their celebration was for the white community. If the Colored people didn’t like the way their parade and celebration operated, they should organize their own parade and celebration. When Dr. Venson related this story to the writer, he indicated that he was insulted by the President’s remarks to him. He got angry and just left the building. As he walked back to his office he was frustrated and angry. He told me he thought about the President’s remarks and decided may he is right. He thought to himself, organize a celebration for the Black community, that’s exactly what I will do. At this point a seed was planted in Dr. Venson’s mind. This was in May of 1934. I believe Dr. Venson was destined to organize a celebration of sorts. When looking through his memoirs, I found a picture with a group of soldiers and three young ladies standing in the center of the group. I discovered a handwritten note on the back of the picture that read: (1925) World War One Soldiers under the leadership of (Lieutenant) Dr. R. Q. Venson sponsored the first Black Parade in Memphis. Featured were three young ladies called “The Angelics.” The young ladies shown with the soldiers were (left to right), Annie Franklin, Unknown, and Geneva Cawthon. Lt. L. Q. Venson is seated on the front row, second soldier from the left. To be continued in April 2019 35

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