84th year of Rhythm Night Club fire commemorated

Published 10:45 pm Saturday, April 27, 2024

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NATCHEZ — More than 50 people gathered Saturday at noon at the historic site of the Rhythm Night Club Fire to remember the 209 African American souls that perished that tragic day — April 23, 1940. Saturday was the 84th year commemoration of the event, the memory of which is kept alive by the work of Monroe and Betty Sago of Natchez.

The Sagos own and operate the Rhythm Night Club Memorial Museum on the site where the night club stood.

An overflow crowd from Natchez, the surrounding area, and beyond gathered that day to hear the Walter Barnes Orchestra of Chicago. Among the most deadly fires in American history, it affected the entire Natchez community and led to advancements in fire safety and fire fighting.

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Roscoe Barnes III was the master of ceremonies. The event featured songs from Janice Sago, Toni Hunt, and Tony Fields. The highlight of the event was the awarding of a $1,000 scholarship to Daisha Green, who is a direct descendant of someone who died in the Rhythm Night Club fire, her great-great-grandmother.

“Previously, we have not had any of the scholarship winners who were direct descendants of a deceased victim of the fire,” Betty Sago said.

Green is a student at Natchez Early College and plans to attend Mississippi State University, where she plans to study pre-dentistry

The keynote speaker was Thelma Newsome, a retired educator and former member of the Natchez-Adams School District Board of Education. She discussed how the definition of success is one judged by individuals.

Monroe Sago in his remarks discussed changes on the way for the area.

“We have lots of changes coming our way, good changes,” he said. “I will let the mayor give you the details of those.”

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson presented a certificate to the Sagos for their work in developing the Rhythm Night Club On Site Memorial Museum. He also updated the group on Phase 1 of the Forks to Freedom Project, which received $1 million in federal funding recently. Those funds will go to create a park at Hiram Revels Plaza, directly across from the Rhythm Night Club site.

The celebration ended with a meal served to all attendees.