Bessie Smith Center Brings Culture to Library Family Pass Program

The Library and The Bessie Smith Cultural Center and Chattanooga African American Museum (the Bessie) are excited to announce that family passes to the Bessie are now available at all library locations! Anyone with a valid CPL card can check out a pass that covers admission to the museum for up to 2 adults and 4 children.

The Bessie is a cultural center, museum and performing arts space that preserves the history of American jazz, blues and its derivatives through premiere musical and educational initiatives including the annual Bessie Smith’s Big 9 Music Fest. Located off M.L. King Boulevard, the Bessie resides in the area once known as “the Big 9,” a famous black enterprise zone known for musicians and performers like Jazz Age singer Bessie Smith, “The Empress of the Blues.”

“The Bessie is one of Chattanooga’s most important venues, offering not only an insight into our history, but also that of the African American experience, music and culture,” said Will O’Hearn, CPL’s Executive Director. “We are very fortunate that they have joined our Family Pass program, offering local families an opportunity to explore this valuable resource for free.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the Chattanooga Public Library to offer family passes to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center and Chattanooga African American Museum,” said Paula Wilkes, President of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. “This initiative aligns perfectly with our mission to make the rich history and cultural heritage of African Americans accessible to all members of our community. By providing free admission through the library, we hope to inspire more families to explore the legacies of trailblazers like Bessie Smith and to engage with the vibrant cultural narrative that continues to shape our city today.”

Also known for its live events and performances, the Bessie will be hosting an upcoming Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. The event will feature music, food trucks, kids activities, a documentary screening and free museum admission. More information about hours, events, event rentals, and exhibitions at The Bessie Smith Cultural Center and Chattanooga African American Museum can be found at

Family passes for the Bessie are available now at all library locations. Passes are checked out on a first come, first serve basis, and each location has one available. To ensure the pass is available before visiting a location, CPL recommends calling your location first. 

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