Juneteenth, Remembering Nashville History

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Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is the oldest known commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas received their freedom, and the day has been recognized and celebrated ever since. It is a very surreal day as we commemorate freedom given, when we were all born free but for so many during this time they looked at African Americans as less than. We were not less than. We are more than our ancestors could ever dream.

As a city with a deeply rooted African American history and American story, we wanted to explore some of the significant moments and locations that represent our lived experiences. Take an intentional moment to look back at some of the poignant times in Nashville in order to never forget, as we continue to set our eyes on the continued path forward.

The Nashville Slave Market Marker is a historical marker blocks from City Hall at the corner of 4th and Charlotte Ave. Only recently erected in 2018, it serves as a public statement for lives that will never be forgotten even when their freedom’s were taken away. Slavery in Nashville was a very real thing and the effects on still long-suffering in this city. There are now six markers around the city that speak to slavery and still many more stories left untold.

Fort Negley is a significant part of Nashville history. Located in South Nashville, it was built by African American slaves against their will, making it the largest inland stone fortification built during the civil war. The views are still vast and the history is still as poignant and relevant today. 

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Fort Negley, photo by Wikipedia

Historic Black Business District at one time prior to the 1930’s was an area in Downtown Nashville near and around Charlotte Ave., that was a thriving hub for African Americans. From barbershops to banks and local business offices. The Morris Memorial Building was a cornerstone within this community. Commissioned by the National Baptist Convention and built by Moses McKissack, the co-founder of McKissack + McKissack, the first African American owned architecture firm in the United States. This building is also where the original location of Citizens Bank (then One-Cent Savings Bank and Trust Company), the oldest minority owned back in the United States. The building is named after Reverend E.C. Morris a former president of the National Baptist Convention.

The Hubbard House at Meharry Medical College is the last house remaining of the original medical college’s campus. Meharry was the first to offer admission to African Americans in the South. The college began as an extension of Central Tennessee College with Dr. George Whipple Hubbard as the first president and dean of the institution. Hubbard worked diligently to establish dentistry and pharmacy disciplines at Meharry Medical College. Hubbard also worked to ensure hospital privileges for students seeing that the college did not have access to a hospital at the time. He had the The Hubbard House building on the campus and it would later be where he retired.

Greenwood Park is the first urban recreational park created for African Americans in 1905 by Preston Taylor. Preston Taylor, one of the founders of Union Transportation Co., would take black people on his streetcar line to the park. The park included a ball field, swimming pools, skating rink, and more amenities. Greenwood Park remained open for 40 years before closing and is survived today by Greenwood Cemetery.

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Greenwood Park, photo by Wikipedia

Witness Walls are large pieces of art on concrete created by Walter Hood and other fellow activists. The walls are meant to capture moments during the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville. The installations include snapshots of school desegregation, sit-ins, Freedom rides and more. The Witness Walls sit beside Davidson County Courthouse and give locals and newcomers a view into the true history of Nashville.

Ways to celebrate today in Nashville:

Juneteenth Freedom Fridey Ride – get some air and solace during this one of a kind bike ride in North Nashville.

The Equity Alliance Juneteenth Block Party – Nashville’s organization helping to get our voices heard at the poll will be hosting a block party for the community in North Nashville

Stories to also read:

4 Historic Hidden Gems in Nashville

Series: A Little Nashville History 

A Family Civil Rights Walking Tour

 

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