Learning about NMAAM

In late Summer 2020, the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) is scheduled to open here in Nashville. With a prime location downtown at 5th and Broadway, NMAAM will provide an opportunity to showcase the many contributions individuals of African descent have made to the musical landscape not only in this country but abroad.

At our meeting yesterday morning, AAHGS Nashville was delighted to host Dr. Steven Lewis, curator at NMAAM, as he shared with us an overview of the museum’s development history and extensive details about the museum’s layout, exhibits, and programs.

Dr. Lewis showing the museum location on 5th and Broadway

This museum is going to be just incredible!

The exhibits will feature 5 main galleries and there will be additional gallery space for rotating exhibits. The five main galleries and their central themes include:

      • Wade in the Water – music reflecting the religious experience
      • Crossroads – about the emergence of the blues
      • A Love Supreme – jazz music
      • One Nation Under A Groove – funk, r&b music
      • The Message – hip-hop music

Additionally, the museum has artifacts and items from individuals affiliated with many different segments of the music industry and the educational immersion via the exhibits are very well designed. There will be a theater that seats almost 200 individuals, a digital hub and music research library, community meeting spaces, and more.

Rap interactive in “The Message” gallery

Many thanks to Dr. Lewis for sharing with us so extensively about the museum.

Visit the museum website to learn more and consider becoming a member and/or signing up for their email news list.

Workshop Summary: Time to Tell – Your Personal and Family History

Today’s workshop was a delight as we were led through an engaging session on writing your personal and family history with our very own AAHGS Nashville member, Deborah Wilbrink.  Deborah has in-depth experience in writing and helping individuals and organizations tell and share their stories. She brought samples of her work and referred to them often during the talk.

display of Deborah’s portfolio of work

As a workshop, the session was interactive and we did several brief exercises to help us understand strategies, processes, and techniques to write our stories. We even had opportunity to share brief stories from our families and Deborah demonstrated how even these brief snippets we shared can be part of the backbone of a larger personal story-telling narrative.

sharing some of our own stories

Overall, our workshop today was motivating and I think more than one of us left determined to get started telling the stories of our lives.

Through her company, Perfect Memoirs, Deborah offers services to help with personal family story telling so you’ll want to check out her website – www.perfectmemoirs.com. You can sign up for her blog, through which she shares how-to tips. You may also want to consider picking up a copy of her book, “Time to Tell Your Personal & Family History,” which is filled with how-to-tips meant to inspire and motivate. I picked up mine!

Deborah & Taneya

Many thanks Deborah for an educational workshop! We have much to take with us as we pursue writing our own personal histories.

African Americans of Belle Meade Plantation

Brigette Jones speaking to the AAHGS Nashville audience

Our AAHGS Nashville meeting today featured a rousing presentation by Brigette Jones, Director of African American Studies for the Belle Meade Plantation Museum.

1844 runaway slave ad from William G. Harding

In her talk, Ms. Jones not only gave us an accounting of the lives of the enslaved population at the plantation but also drew stark parallels between the situations faced by those individuals in the past and the situations faced by African Americans throughout the course of time since slavery and on up to present day.

Ms. Jones shared for us the stories of some of the known enslaved individuals and their contributions to the plantation, including:

    • Ben – who ran away in 1818
    • Ned – Ben’s replacement, who also ran away in 1818
    • Susana McGavock Carter – a house servant for the Harding family
    • Bob Green – head hostler (in charge of the horses)
Susanna McGavock Carter

It was a fascinating talk and if you’d like to learn more, you will definitely want to attend the Journey to Jubilee tour and get an in-depth perspective of what life was like those enslaved at Belle Meade. Thank you, Ms. Jones, for sharing their stories with us today and challenging us to reflect on the difficult intergenerational effects of slavery.

 

Relevant resources for today’s talk include:

 

Meeting Recap: Music History & Genealogy of Jefferson Street

Many thanks to our guest speaker yesterday, Mr. Lorenzo Washington of Jefferson Street Sound, for a wonderful presentation about the history of music along Nashville own’s Jefferson Street.

Mr. Washington has long been a part of the music scene on Jefferson Street and during the meeting yesterday shared his reasons for establishing the “Mini Museum” at Jefferson Street Sound at 2004 Jefferson Street. The goal is to preserve the musical legacy of Jefferson Street and in this endeavor, Mr. Washington documents and shares information about the many clubs that used to reside on the street.

Of particular note, Mr. Washington created this genealogy tree to showcase the interrelationships of the music clubs. The two side branches, representing Maceo’s Club and New Era Club – both of which were located off the main Jefferson St. corridor. Then, along the trunk of the tree are the others which were on Jefferson proper – Prices, Club Baron, Black Diamond Club, Club Stealaway, Good Jelly Jones’ place, Fisk (for the Jubilee Singers), Fireside Club, Brown’s Diner Club, Del Morocco Club, and Tennesse A&I (for the many musicians that came from the school).  Along the trunk, specific locations are mapped too, and the leaves of each branch highlight some of the many names associated with each location.

We learned so many insights! For example, the first Jefferson Street musician to have a hit single across the country was Gene Allison with “You Can Make It If You Try.”

I have not visited the museum, but will definitely make plans to do so now. I recommend you do so too – you will be in for a treat.  Thank you Mr. Washington for the work you are doing to preserve this segment of Nashville African American history!

 

April 1st Meeting: Music History & Genealogy of Jefferson Street

The city of Nashville has a long-established and well-known history of music. The musical underpinnings of the city reflect a rich and multi-layered tapestry of sound, to which our guest speaker, Lorenzo Washington, is no stranger. As the owner of Jefferson Street Sound & Museum, Mr. Washington is highly dedicated to preserving the internationally-known musical legacy of Jefferson Street – a mecca of the Nashville jazz, blues, and R&B music scene from the 1930s-1970s.

Join the Nashville chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society in the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library for our April 1st monthly meeting at 9:30 am as we hear Mr. Washington share with us his passion and drive to preserve the musical history of Jefferson Street. For those with a genealogy interests, come learn about a different type of genealogy as Mr. Washington details the musical “tree of life” and interconnections of the Jefferson Street music scene.

After the meeting, we welcome you to ask questions about your own family history, or spend time at the library doing research; AAHGS members and a collection of genealogy books will be available to aid you. Please RSVP to let us know you are coming. The meeting is free and open to the public. We look forward to seeing you there!

Meeting Recap: Filling Gaps in the Story

At our March monthly meeting, guest speaker Betsy Phillips, local author, and columnist for the Nashville Scene, shared with us her tips and strategies for researching various aspects of history related to Nashville.

Tips that she shared included ways to assess the composition of the enslaved in antebellum homes and plantations, the importance of visiting physical locations whenever possible, and being sure to remember historical context when analyzing and evaluating information that you’ve found.

Bud Rogan newspaper death notice, 1905

In a timely example, she also described her search for Bud Rogan – an over 8-foot tall giant from Gallatin, TN. Betsy’s search and process were illuminating and insightful as she took us through her own journey to learn more about Bud.

In today’s Nashville Scene, you can read more about Betsy’s quest – we are lucky to have had an early sneak peak!

Finding and Filling the Holes in the Story – Guest Speaker: Betsy Phillips

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The history of African Americans in Nashville and it’s surrounding area is both rich and complicated – but there are many stories awaiting discovery for us all. Local author and Nashville Scene columnist,Betsy Phillips, has spent many hours in relentless pursuit of this history and finding and filling gaps in these stories.

Over the years, Betsy has written about many individuals, places, and events related to African Americans in Nashville – including local businessman and civil rights leader James Carroll Napier, the old historically black school Roger Williams University, and recently, the history of Fred Douglas Park in East Nashville.

We invite you to join us on Saturday, March 4th at 9:30am at the Nashville Public Library to hear Betsy’s work and learn about the research strategies and sources she uses – you may find that you can use some of them for your own research! As we explore our African-American family connections it is important we all stay on top of techniques that can help us learn more about our ancestors and the environments and events that helped shape their lives.


After the meeting, we welcome you to spend time working on your own family history research; books will be available to aid you. If you are able to join us, please register to let us know you’re coming. The meeting is free and open to the public and we look forward to seeing you there!