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
On Saturday, January 18th, we held our first meeting of the year. We were fortunate to have Dr. Angela Sutton present and showcase a variety of emotionally moving monuments around the world created to memorialize the experiences of enslaved populations. Dr. Sutton shared these projects as a context for the potential that lies before the city of Nashville as plans are considered for a monument/memorial at Ft. Negley.
I Am Queen Mary (2018) in Denmark – the statue is a monument to Mary Thomas, a woman who was enslaved in St. Croix and coordinated a slave revolt in which 50 plantations were burned
Each of these monuments is worth learning about and we encourage you to research them and their significance. Dr. Sutton’s talk and review were inspiring as fodder for the ultimate question: How could we help the world to understand the experience of Nashville’s enslaved and their descendants?
We thank Dr. Sutton for her presentation and let us all use this as an opportunity to contribute our voices for what could be at Ft. Negley.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Many thanks Deborah for an educational workshop! We have much to take with us as we pursue writing our own personal histories.
Our AAHGS Nashville meeting today featured a rousing presentation by Brigette Jones, Director of African American Studies for the Belle Meade Plantation Museum.
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)
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:
Fisk Slave Narratives – project started in 1929 collected by Fisk University’s Charles S. Johnson and Ophelia Settles Egypt
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 youMr. Washington for the work you are doing to preserve this segment of Nashville African American history!
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!
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.
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.
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!
For our December Monthly Meeting, AAHGS Nashville is pleased to have YOU as our guest speaker!
That’s right – this meeting is a chance for you to present, show, and tell us all something interesting you’ve learned in your family history and genealogy research. We all have diverse backgrounds and family pasts so this will be an opportunity for us to learn more about you.
You can present on any aspect of your family history that you choose – have a family heirloom and want to tell it’s story? Made a connection and want to explain what led you there? Have you used DNA analysis to uncover family mysteries? We want to know!
We will meet Saturday, December 3rd at 9:30 am in the Civil Rights Room at the downtown Nashville Public Library. Our meetings are free and open to the public.
Konnetta Alexander will facilitate the meeting and share one of her own personal stories – “How a Spinning Wheel Lead to documenting My South Carolina Family Slave”. Konnetta has more than 20 years experience doing genealogy research with most of her effort dedicated to three projects – researching family, transcribing and making public excerpts of an Antebellum slave account/record book, and performing interpretative presentations about the lives of free persons of color and slaves. Konnetta is an annual participant of MAAGI (Midwestern African American Genealogy Institute) and member of several historical societies. The focus of hergenealogy research is locating, documenting and personalizing the lives of slaves, whether family or not.
We look forward to seeing you there and hearing about your own family history!
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 open to the public and we look forward to seeing you there!