Nashville’s greatest Civil Rights story is the downtown sit-ins and economic boycott that successfully desegregated city services in 1960. Learn about the events of that year and what followed at the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Library.
Visit the Tennessee State Museum to learn about Tennessee history, including slavery, emancipation, and freedom. Learn about African-American contributions to country music at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Fisk University in North Nashville is the oldest university in Nashville and one of the oldest institutions of learning for African Americans. Visit Jubilee Hall, built from the proceeds of the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ first tour, and the Aaron Douglas Gallery, named for the esteemed muralist and educator.
Across the road from Fisk is Meharry Medical College, which at one time graduated half the African-American doctors in America. A bit farther down the road is Tennessee State University, a historically black state-funded university.
In South Nashville, Fort Negley, a Union fortification built to protect Nashville during the Civil War, was constructed by free blacks and slaves who were pressed into service. Hundreds died during its construction.
Tour guides at Belle Meade Plantation in West Nashville highlight the importance of slaves and African-American staff at the grand estate. A slave cabin has been re-created on the grounds.
Cheekwood is home to a permanent collection of African-American folk artist William Edmondson, whose stone sculptures are fascinating and imaginative.
The Hermitage east of Nashville has comprehensive exhibits about slave life on the presidential estate. Archaeological studies have been done to learn more about the lives of the hundreds of slaves who made Andrew Jackson’s retreat profitable.
The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is comprehensive and moving. It uses audio, video, and the words of participants to tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement. A true must-see.
The home where the Slavehaven Underground Railroad Museum is housed is said to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today it is a museum that celebrates the ways in which slaves resisted and escaped slavery.
While music is the centerpiece, civil rights and the racial dynamics of the day are not far from the fore at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in South Memphis. Learn how music erased racial conceptions, until the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. changed everything.
Visit the W. C. Handy Home and Museum and explore Beale Street to discover the African-American heritage of the blues.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition