Southern Heritage Classic now includes a gala, college fair, concerts, band competition, and –of course– a football game between rivals

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – For the past 30 years, the Southern Heritage Classic has drawn hundreds of thousands to the Bluff City for a football battle between two historically black colleges, Jackson State University and Tennessee State University. 

Although the Southern Heritage Classic started as a football battle, it has now turned into a weekend full of events ranging from concerts to a college fair for high school students. It’s also a celebration of historically black colleges and universities. 

Wednesday night, the city of Memphis hosted its classic gala at Graceland. 

“30 years of success, even when things didn’t go well, we’re still here in Memphis and of course in my home town,” said Fred Jones, CEO and Founder of the Southern Heritage Classic. 

Jones started the classic weekend in Memphis because although Jackson State University and Tennessee State University played each other regularly, the distance between both schools impacted attendance. 

“Mr. Jones, I think, saw something in it, and he decided to promote it because back in the day the game was actually played at the old Crump Stadium,” Georgia “Gigi” Whiting, President of TSU National Alumni Association.

The Southern Heritage Classic continues to thrive, growing beyond a football game. 

“My son and I and my wife, we have been supporters of HBCUs really for the last 30 years. Perhaps you don’t know, but we have a scholarship foundation where we send at least 3 to 4 kids to LeMoyne every year,” said Larry Dodson, lead singer of the BarKays. 

That’s what this weekend has become, an opportunity to show the importance of historically black colleges and universities. 

“At a time when we were not able to attend PWIs or the institutions, they were the institutions actually educating us and providing us the resources that we needed to become productive citizens that we are today,” said Lori Evans, President of JSU Memphis Alumni Chapter. 

Thursday, Gladys Knight will perform at the Orpheum. Friday from 9a.m. to 2 p.m., the Southern Heritage Classic College Fair will be held at the Pipkin Building. Any high school student is welcomed to attend. Finally, Saturday is the annual Classic tailgate and football game.

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