B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center
Southern Cultural Treasures
Year of Award
Grant or Fellowship
Southern Cultural Treasures
The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center was opened in 2008 as a way to honor Indianola’s native son as well as try to fulfill his wishes that underserved youth in the Mississippi Delta have the opportunities not available to him at a young age.
The mission of the Museum is to empower, unite and heal through music, art, and education and share with the world the rich cultural heritage of the Mississippi Delta. While instilling a sense of pride in place, the Museum also offers a window to the larger world. Here young people can experience music and art in many media forms and express their talents in a safe, nurturing and fun environment—putting the arts at the center of community life. We offer educational programs that range from enhancing the musical talent of area youth to improving their leadership, civic, and service skills. All our programs are designed to help fill critical gaps with the goal of improving the lives of our residents.
The Museum’s permanent exhibition presents and celebrates the life and music of Riley “B.B.” King and serves as a backdrop for examination of the music of the Mississippi Delta and exploration of the life, culture, social conditions and people of this region. The exhibits interpret each part of his life, from his early years, his coming of age with gospel music, and his desire to fulfill the dream of making it in Memphis, how he survived in a segregated world, and how a beloved international icon became.
The exhibit expansion that opened in 2021 covers the last decade of Mr. King’s life, highlighting his amazing transportation journeys. The expansion also features a Memorial Garden where he is laid to rest as well as a life-size bronze sculpture where visitors can feel his presence.
The Museum has welcomed visitors from all 50 states and more than 40 countries who leave with a profound sense of gratitude for what B.B. King left us all.
Leadership - Malika Polk-Lee
Malika Polk-Lee first came to the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in 2012 as its chief administrative officer. She stepped into the role of executive director in 2015. Her strong background in corporate management was beneficial in her role of overseeing daily operations of the museum, which included financial reporting, personnel, purchasing, strategic planning, the development of education and outreach programs, and fundraising and donor development.
As the current executive director, she ensures local programming excellence while maintaining the high quality of exhibits that welcome visitors from all over the world. She understands that service to the residents of the area is vital, and that it helps build a stronger community as well as offering guests a richer experience in the museum and the Mississippi Delta as a whole.
Polk-Lee holds a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science from Mississippi State University and a Master of Business Administration from Delta State University. She is currently serving on the board of AAAM and is in her sixth year as chair of the Governance Committee. Malika also serves on the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area board of directors.
Malika is active in the community through service organizations including Rotary Club, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc.
Southern Cultural Treasures is a program of South Arts and made possible with support from the Ford Foundation.