Cotton Carnival, The Cotton Makers Jubilee, And Carnival Memphis

Jun 4, 2013

Cotton Carnival, Memphis, Tennessee, 1940
Credit Marion Post Wolcott / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The Great Depression pushed cotton prices to drastically low levels. The Memphis economy was suffering.

In early 1931, Arthur Halle and a group of businessmen founded a festival to promote cotton and Memphis. The first Cotton Carnival was held in March, but soon moved to May, a warmer month. Today’s Carnival is usually held the first week of June. 

Because of segregation, blacks could not participate. So Dr. R.Q. Venson founded what became the Cotton Makers Jubilee in 1935 for African-Americans. The events ran parallel to one another for nearly half a century.

In 1985 they became part of Carnival Memphis – a city wide festival that includes everyone.

The Pink Palace Museum has an exhibit of artifacts from both festivals, including photos, programs and costumes worn by cotton royalty.

To learn more about all of our region's history, visit the Pink Palace Family of Museums, or on their Facebook page, or at