Bessie Smith Cultural Center/Meetings Information

  • 200 E. M.L. King Boulevard
  • Chattanooga, TN 37403
Founded in 1983 as the Chattanooga African American Museum, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center located on the historic Big 9 (now Martin Luther King Blvd.), celebrates the African Diaspora and pays tribute to Chattanooga’s African American culture with an emphasis on Bessie Smith, “The Empress of the Blues.”
“The Bessie” preserves the history of American jazz, blues and its derivatives through premiere musical and educational initiatives including the annual Bessie Smith Heritage Festival and the Songbook Performing Arts series utilizing its onsite performance venue. We also welcome Big 9 visitors to the Bessie Smith Strut, a nationally recognized outdoor street festival held in the district.
The center serves youth through enrichment activities including music/performing arts classes, visual arts, education, literary programs and various exhibitions by international, national, and emerging arts.
The Bessie is also a nationally renowned rental facility that adds an unexpected twist to any event. Whether planning a company networking event, a formal dinner party or wedding reception, the facility boasts several spaces to fit your event needs including the Bessie Smith Performance Hall, The Vilma Fields Atrium, and the Big 9 Board Room or Museum Terrace. Our rental facility can accommodate from 10 to 1,000. For specifications on size and capacity for each room please contact the Bessie Smith Cultural Center at 423/266-8658 or
  • Admission fee:
  • Handicapped accessible:
  • Restrooms available:
Facility Info
Meeting Rooms
  • Largest Room 500
  • Reception Capacity 375
  • Theatre Capacity 375
  • Banquet Capacity 300
  • Theater Capacity: 325
  • Classroom Capacity: 150
  • Banquet Capacity: 130
  • Theater Capacity: 1000
  • Classroom Capacity: 1000
  • Banquet Capacity: 1000
  • Reception Capacity: 1000
Bessie Smith Performance Hall
  • Theater Capacity: 500
  • Classroom Capacity: 375
  • Banquet Capacity: 300
  • Reception Capacity: 375
Board Room
  • Theater Capacity: 20
  • Classroom Capacity: 20
  • Banquet Capacity: 20
  • Reception Capacity: 20
February 13, 2018

Thousands of men entered the ranks of the USCT at Chattanooga. In December 1864, they were rushed to Nashville to stop the last Confederate offensive then trying to take the city.

  • Location: Bessie Smith Cultural Center/Meetings Information
  • Visit Website
June 19, 2018

Enslaved African Americans, forcibly removed from their homes with the Cherokee in the 1830s, were eventually emancipated, but citizenship and equality was an uphill struggle.

  • Location: Bessie Smith Cultural Center/Meetings Information
  • Visit Website
September 18, 2018

When soldiers do not receive mail from home, they become demoralized. This program will look at what Chickamauga battlefield had to do with lifting the spirits of those soldiers on the front during World War II.

  • Location: Bessie Smith Cultural Center/Meetings Information
  • Visit Website
October 16, 2018

Join a park ranger for a special program exploring the experiences of African Americans in Chattanooga during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.

  • Location: Bessie Smith Cultural Center/Meetings Information
  • Visit Website