Lecture to dive into Mississippi’s “Chitlin’ Circuit”

Published 6:15 am Monday, February 27, 2023

An iconic Hattiesburg night club famed for drawing some of the biggest names in blues music during its heyday as a key stop for musicians working the “Chitlin’ Circuit” will be in the spotlight when University of Southern Mississippi (USM) history doctoral student Sean O’ Farrell presents “More than a Club: The Hi-Hat, the Chitlin’ Circuit, and Palmer’s Crossing” for the USM Center for the Gulf South’s annual Baird Lecture March 6 at 5:15 p.m. in the USM Liberal Arts Building, room 108 (Gonzales Auditorium), on the Hattiesburg campus.

This event, sponsored by the USM School of Humanities’ Center for the Study of the Gulf South (CSGS), is free and open to the public.

O’Farrell, the CSGS 2022-23 Baird Fellow, is researching the Chitlin’ Circuit and Black-owned music clubs and their interactions within their local communities in the second half of the 20th century. The Chitlin’ Circuit refers to the establishments throughout the country where Black musicians could perform during the era of segregation.

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Owned by widely noted Hattiesburg African American businessman Milton Barnes, the former Hi-Hat Club was established in the 1950s and over the next several decades treated its patrons to the music of such blues legends as B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, and Otis Redding, among others. A historic marker now denotes the site of the club’s location in Hattiesburg’s Palmer’s Crossing community.

O’Farrell wants his presentation to be a vehicle for how stories from the history of the Hi-Hat and Palmer’s Crossing can be used to conduct a community-centered approach to analyzing the Chitlin’ Circuit and its impact on the everyday life of the people living and working near the clubs where musicians on the circuit performed.

“Hopefully, the audience will see that the Chitlin’ Circuit is about more than just music, because thinking about Black-owned clubs in that way limits our understanding of them and their place in their communities,” he said.

For information about the CSGS, visit https://www.usm.edu/gulf-south/index.php. Learn more about the Hi-Hat Club at the Mississippi Blues Commission website: https://msbluestrail.org/blues-trail-markers/hi-hat-club.