Beck Cultural Exchange Center Knoxville, Tennessee
Beck Cultural Exchange CenterKnoxville, Tennessee

The Place Where African American        History & Culture Are Preserved

Women's History Month

ETHEL BENSON BECK (1897 – 1970)

Mrs. Ethel B. Beck was born and reared in Morristown, Tennessee and received her education at Morristown Normal College.  Mrs. Beck came to Knoxville to live after her marriage to Mr. James G. Beck. The Beck Cultural Exchange Center is named in their honor.


In the summer of 1919, a group of public spirited citizens, sensing a need for the care and protection of the unfortunate children of the Negro Race, met and formed a Board of Management for the establishment of a Colored Orphanage. Money was raised to purchase the property at 1835 Brandau Avenue, an old frame structure. The improvements needed proved a weight about the neck of the institution and for a while the whole enterprise seemed headed for foreclosure. 


About this time a noble spirited woman, Ms. Ethel Beck, was elected to head the Board Management, and in less than two years, the debt was liquidated and the home saved.  Mrs. Beck announced that she would have a brick first class building erected free from debt.  It seemed an idle dream, but in 1939 it was completed without debt.  It was well known that the dream was realized by the labor, love and money of Ms. Beck.  In 1941, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to change the name to the “ETHEL BECK HOME.” A monument, to the faithful work of a noblewoman.  


In Honor of Women’s History Month

Beck Recognizes an Extraordinary Pioneer

Mrs. Ethel Benson Beck

The Beck Cultural Exchange Center (Beck) is the place “Where African American History & Culture Are Preserved.” Beck was established in 1975 with a mission that has remained unchanged.  Beck is as an African American teaching and learning museum and cultural center that serves as a State of Tennessee designated primary repository of black history and culture in the city of Knoxville and throughout East Tennessee. Absent of Beck, there is no single organization in the region that provides this invaluable service. For over forty years, Beck has been entrusted with an extensive collection of historical archives deeming it Knoxville’s storehouse of regional African American History and Culture. 


About the Photo of Maurice Mays: On August 30,1919 the race relations climate in Knoxville took a bloody turn and the city became one of the “Red Summer” cities during a time when race riots were erupting all across the nation. Maurice Mays, a handsome black man born around 1887, was accused of murdering a white woman and Knoxville erupted in violence. The National Guard was summoned to Knoxville to maintain law and order during the Maurice Mays race riot of 1919.

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September 9, 1941 - December 7, 2016

Former Executive Director

Beck Cultural Exchange Center




The Beck Cultural Exchange Center, "The Place Where African American History & Culture Are Preserved" remembers our dearly beloved Mr. Avon W. Rollins, Sr., a civil rights activist, humanitarian, friend and a member of the Beck Family.


We shall never forget his tremendous contributions to make life better for all people. We are forever grateful for his servant leadership, his courage and his commitment to the struggle for justice and equality.


We shall never forget ...

Where to find us

Beck Cultural Exchange Center
1927 Dandridge Ave.
Knoxville, TN 37915



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Museum Hours

Our museum is open during the following hours:

Tuesday - Saturday

10:00AM - 6:00PM

In the event of inclement weather we operate on the Knox County School Schedule.  Please See
Admission: FREE
Parking: FREE


You are welcome to take a Self-Guided Tour anytime during our Business Hours

Please Feel Free To Contact Us for Additional Information

Beck Exhibits

We have Permanent Exhibits and Feature ExhibitsPrepare to be intrigued

Calendar of Events

Museum Rental


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