Allen James Walker was born a slave near Germantown in 1845. During the Civil War, Walker was one of the thousands of local slaves who escaped from their bondage. Walker joined the Union Army, which raised 51 black companies from Shelby and Fayette County alone.
As a soldier in the 7th US Colored Heavy Artillery, Walker was stationed at Corinth, Mississippi and Ft. Pickering, here in Memphis, but was ultimately sent to Ft. Pillow, overlooking the Mississippi and Hatchie Rivers.
In March of 1934, Dr. R.Q. Venson, a Beale Street dentist, took his nephew to a Cotton Carnival parade. While at the parade, his nephew pointed-out that, “the negroes were horses,” meaning that black men were pulling the floats.
In reaction to this, Dr. Venson requested that blacks be allowed to fully participate in future Cotton Carnivals.
His request was denied, so, Dr. Venson created the Cotton Makers Jubilee as an alternative to the racially-segregated Cotton Carnival. Black Memphians would have their own festival.