This is the story of how a professional wrestler fought to desegregate a Memphis auditorium. Sputnik Monroe was a “bad guy” or “heel” who wrestled in Memphis in the late 1950s. It was his job to make wrestling fans hate him so much, that they would lay down their hard earned money to see him get beat by the “good guy.” He was so good at his job, that thousands of people paid to see him wrestle every Monday night at Ellis Auditorium. When he wasn’t wrestling, he was hanging out with his friends in the cafes on Beale Street. Sputnik was one of the few white people that you’d find on Beale Street and his friends were all black. He was often arrested for the crime of being a white person who would dare to drink in public with a black person. This was scandalous at the time. When his day in court arrived, he was the first white person in Memphis to be represented by (his friend) a black lawyer. This was even more scandalous. It became common knowledge among the African American community of Memphis that Sputnik Monroe was alright. When his black friends came to see him wrestle, they were forced to sit in the balcony, while the whites sat in the good seats down below. When Sputnik entered the ring, a huge round of cheers would rain down from the balcony. This would make the white folks hate him even more. Sputnik one day confronted the promoters and told them that he would refuse to wrestle unless they allowed his black friends to sit anywhere they wanted. The promoters realized that Sputnik was making them a ton of money, so they gave in to his demands. This lead to the very first desegregated sporting event in the southern part of the United States.
All of that because a professional wrestler was willing to take a principled stand. Imagine what the rest of us might be capable of.
I think more people should know about Sputnik Monroe, so I wrote this song. Please share this with anyone who might be interested. I need your help to get the word out.
Thanks for giving a damn,