Fifty years in the making, the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame (NRBHF) is coming to life.
Founded in 2010, NRBHF will now have a permanent home in a state-of-the-art facility in Marks, Mississippi, according to its founder and CEO LaMont Robinson.
The body has inducted 200 artists including R&B icons like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and B.B. King.
The City of Marks-Quitman County has donated five acres of land known as Industrial Park and $500,000 from a state grant to jump-start what they call a one-of-a-kind international tourist attraction.
Robinson said NRBHF has additional partners to assist with funding and is currently conducting a Go Fund Me campaign to help complete this project.
The NRBHF’s groundbreaking ceremony will kick off the Annual Mules & Blues Fest on Sept. 30.
“I have been a long-time activist and advocate for preserving the history of rhythm and blues music and its legends. 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,” Robinson said.
“This project won’t just be made up of showcases and photographs on the wall like you would find in a typical hall of fame or museum,” he said. “It will be highly interactive – virtual reality with holograms.”
Robinson continued that his vision is to build an R&B Hall of Fame that acknowledges its contributions to the Civil Rights Movement.
“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,” Robinson said.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, who represents Mississippi’s second district, said the Hall of Fame will be a catalyst to Delta tourism growth and opportunities and a means to attract businesses and industry.
“I am grateful to the founder and CEO LaMont Robinson and his board for having the vision to select Quitman County, which will be the “official home” of the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame,” he said.
Velma Benson-Wilson, Quitman County’s Economic and Tourism Director, echoed Thompson about the economic boost the Hall of Fame will bring for Marks-Quitman County and the state of Mississippi.
According to NRBHF, Benson-Wilson is working on a congressional bill to honor rhythm and blues artists from the Jim Crow era.
She also hopes to make Aug. 17 “Rhythm & Blues Artists’ Day.”
NRBHF said many National R&B Hall of Fame inductees have supported the hall of fame’s erection including Marshall Thompson of The Chi-Lites, blues legend Bobby Rush and Dionne Warwick, who was inducted in 2019.
“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,” Warwick said in a statement.
“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,” she said.