The civil rights movement was a pivotal time for Black people in America. Cities such as Selma, Montgomery, and Atlanta were placed in the national spotlight not just because of acts of racism that occurred there, but the strength and perseverance of the African American men and women who fought for justice. While there are many cities that were important to the movement, one location that frequently gets overlooked is Nashville.
The Metro Historical Commission in Nashville plans to change that. Recognizing the city’s contribution to the nationwide call for equality, the commission will explore up to 100 historic resources significant to the Nashville civil rights movement over the next two years.
According to the Tennessean, the commission is receiving a $50,000 federal grant from the African American civil rights program, which is managed by the National Parks Service. The survey will be conducted over the next two years to research notable sites in Nashville and examine information related to the city’s civil rights movement from 1944 to 1966.
The research will include the documentation of visits from civil rights leaders, lunch counter sit-ins, KKK bombings, the Freedom Rides, the establishment of the city’s NAACP, and more.
“Throughout Nashville and Tennessee, African American historic resources have long been neglected or endured damage or demolition with lasting negative impacts, such as the routing of Interstate 40 through historically Black portions of North Nashville. These histories have been suppressed, or at the very least de-prioritized,” the commission stated in a press release.
The information gathered will be used as a source on the history of Nashville’s Civil Rights Movement, WPLN reports. While Tennessee doesn’t have a document of this type available currently, the commission hopes that it will lead to the pursuit of historical information from other cities across the state.
For instance, who knew that the late Congressman John Lewis got his activist training in Nashville where he attended Fisk University? According to the Tennessean, Nashville’s HBCUs—Tennessee State, Fisk, Meharry and the American Baptist College—played a pivotal role in the history of civil rights in Tennessee. In fact, the student movement in Nashville jump started the careers of civil rights legends such as Lewis, Bernard Lafayette and Diane Nash.
The commission stated in the release that Nashville’s student protests were “just as significant” as similar endeavors in other cities, and that historians in the area “believe the Freedom Rides would have never happened without Nashville’s prior demonstrations, protests and involvement.”