Meeting Recap: Mapping Tennessee’s African American Neighborhoods

Our chapter had another informative and educational meeting Sat., Aug. 1st! Our third quarterly meeting of the year was held via Zoom, as will all remaining meetings of the year, due to COVID19.

Featured guest Zachary Keith, an archivist and map curator at the Tennessee State Library & Archives, shared a website he’s been working on to show – through geographic mapping overlays – the destruction of African American neighborhoods of Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Knoxville caused by urban renewal in the 1950s-60s .

The maps are striking.  In these two, for example, you can clearly see how construction of the I-40 Interstate cut through the North Nashville neighborhood around Jefferson Street.

Zachary noted that during this time, 1,549 people were relocated, 94% of them (1,450) black individuals.  Along with each map on the website, he provides historical pictures and researched narratives.

The site states that those who lost homes and businesses were more likely to be poor and African American. Such urban renewal projects seriously disrupted, and in some cases destroyed their communities, making it more difficult to accumulate property and wealth. The effects of these projects persist today, despite the progress achieved by the Civil Rights Movement in the mitigation of Jim Crow Laws – and all of this is so clearly obvious through these maps.

Discussion in the chatbox during the meeting provided additional insight:

    • two attendees lived through this deconstruction period near Jefferson Street and shared their family experiences.
    • we discussed the destruction of businesses and schools
    • a member shared that his family land was taken due to eminent domain for 1/4 of what would become Cumberland View Housing Projects aka Dodge City in the 1960’s
    • another member shared a link to a project at Johns Hopkins University that documents examples of structural racism across the country at 

The online mapping project is worth checking out. You can visit it at

If you have personal experiences you can share, you can reach out to Mr. Keith at


Author: Taneya

Genealogy | Memory Keeping | Organization

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