‘The Rhythm Club Is On Fire!’: Tragedy Devastated Young Black Natchez in 1940

Walter Barnes and Royal Creolians

On the night of April 23, 1940, in Natchez, Miss., Walter Barnes and His Royal Creolians, a popular jazz orchestra from Chicago, continued to play to calm the crowd as the Rhythm Night Club burned. With the windows boarded up, this deadly fire took the lives of 209 people, including Barnes and several members of his band.