Since its founding, Nashville has been a center of black urban culture in the Upper South. Blacks—slave and free—made up 20 percent of Fort Nashborough’s settlers in 1779. From these early years through the Civil War, a growing black community in Nashville, led by a small group of black elites, quietly built the foundations of a future society, developing schools, churches, and businesses. The Civil War brought new freedoms and challenges as the black population of Nashville increased and as black elites found themselves able—even obliged—to act more openly. To establish a more stable and prosperous African-American community, the elites found that they had to work within a system bound to the interests of whites. But the aims of this elite did not always coincide with those of the black community at large. By 1930, younger blacks, in particular, were moving towards protest and confrontation. As democratization and higher education spread, the lines distinguishing Nashville’s black elite became blurred.
Bobby L. Lovett presents a complex analysis of black experience in Nashville during the years between 1780 and 1930, exploring the impact of civil rights, education, politics, religion, business, and neighborhood development on a particular African-American community. This study of black Nashville examines lives lived within a web of shifting alliances and interests—the choices made, the difficulties overcome.
Fifteen years in the making, illustrated with maps and photographs, this work is the first detailed study of any of Tennessee’s major urban black communities. Lovett here collects, organizes, and interprets a large, rich body of data, making this material newly accessible to all interested in the black urban experience.
Started by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company in 1925, WSM became one of the most influential and exceptional radio stations in the history of broadcasting and country music. WSM gave Nashville the moniker “Music City USA” as well as a rich tradition of music, news, and broad-based entertainment. With the rise of country music broadcasting and recording between the 1920s and ‘50s, WSM, Nashville, and country music became inseparable, stemming from WSM’s launch of the Grand Ole Opry, popular daily shows like Noontime Neighbors, and early morning artist-driven shows such as Hank Williams on Mother’s Best Flour.
Sparked by public outcry following a proposal to pull country music and the Opry from WSM-AM in 2002, Craig Havighurst scoured new and existing sources to document the station’s profound effect on the character and self-image of Nashville. Introducing the reader to colorful artists and businessmen from the station’s history, including Owen Bradley, Minnie Pearl, Jim Denny, Edwin Craig, and Dinah Shore, the volume invites the reader to reflect on the status of Nashville, radio, and country music in American culture.
John Anthony Caruso’s The Appalachian Frontier, first published in 1959, captures the drama and sweep of a nation at the beginning of its westward expansion. Bringing to life the region’s history from its earliest seventeenth-century scouting parties to the admission of Tennessee to the Union in 1796, Caruso describes the exchange of ideas, values, and cultural traits that marked Appalachia as a unique frontier.
Looking at the rich and mountainous land between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, The Appalachian Frontier follows the story of the Long Hunters in Kentucky; the struggles of the Regulators in North Carolina; the founding of the Watauga, Transylvania, Franklin, and Cumberland settlements; the siege of Boonesboro; and the patterns and challenges of frontier life. While narrating the gripping stories of such figures as Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, and Chief Logan, Caruso combines social, political, and economic history into a comprehensive overview of the early mountain South.
In his new introduction, John C. Inscoe examines how this work exemplified the so-called consensus school of history that arose in the United States during the cold war. Unabashedly celebratory in his analysis of American nation building, Caruso shows how the development of Appalachia fit into the grander scheme of the evolution of the country. While there is much in The Appalachian Frontier that contemporary historians would regard as one-sided and romanticized, Inscoe points out that “those of us immersed so deeply in the study of the region and its people sometimes tend to forget that the white settlement of the mountain south in the eighteenth century was not merely the chronological foundation of the Appalachian experience. As Caruso so vividly demonstrates, it is also represented a vital—even defining—stage in the American progression across the continent.”
The Author: John Anthony Caruso was a professor of history at West Virginia University. He died in 1997.
John C. Inscoe is professor of history at the University of Georgia. He is editor of Appalachians and Race: The Mountain South from Slavery to Segregation and author of Mountain Masters: Slavery and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina.
One hundred years of archaeological excavations at an important American landmark, the Shiloh Indian Mounds archaeological site, a National Historic Landmark
The Shiloh Indian Mounds archaeological site, a National Historic Landmark, is a late prehistoric community within the boundaries of the Shiloh National Military Park on the banks of the Tennessee River, where one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War was fought in April 1862. Dating between AD 1000 and 1450, the archaeological site includes at least eight mounds and more than 100 houses. It is unique in that the land has never been plowed, so visitors can walk around the area and find the collapsed remains of 800-year-old houses and the 900-meter-long palisade with bastions that protected the village in prehistoric times. Although its location within a National Park boundary has protected the area from the recent ravages of man, riverbank erosion began to undermine the site in the 1970s. In the mid-1990s, Paul Welch began a four-year investigation culminating in a comprehensive report to the National Park Service on the Shiloh Indian Mounds.
These published findings confirm that the Shiloh site was one of at least fourteen Mississippian mound sites located within a 50 km area and that Shiloh was abandoned in approximately AD 1450. It also establishes other parameters for the Shiloh archaeological phase. This current volume is intended to make information about the first 100 years of excavations at the Shiloh site available to the archaeological community.
Founded during World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was a vital link in the U.S. military’s atomic bomb assembly line—the site where scientists worked at a breakneck pace to turn tons of uranium into a few grams of the artificial element plutonium. To construct and operate the plants needed for this effort, thousands of workers, both skilled and unskilled, converged on the “city behind a fence” tucked between two ridges of sparsely populated farmland in the Tennessee hills.
At Work in the Atomic City explores the world of those workers and their efforts to form unions, create a community, and gain political rights over their city. It follows them from their arrival at Oak Ridge, to the places where they lived, and to their experiences in a dangerous and secretive workplace. Lured by promises of housing, plentiful work, and schooling for their children, they were often exposed to dangerous levels of radioactivity, harmful chemicals, and other hazards. Although scientists and doctors intended to protect workers, the pressure to produce materials for the bomb often overrode safety considerations. After the war, as the military sought to reduce services and jobs in Oak Ridge, workers organized unions at two plants to demand higher wages and job security. However, the new Taft-Hartley Act limited defense workers’ ability to strike and thus curbed union influence.
The book examines the ongoing debates over workers’ rights at Oak Ridge—notably the controversy surrounding the new federal program intended to compensate workers and their families for injuries sustained on the job. Because of faulty record keeping at the facilities and confusion over exposure levels, many have been denied payment to this day.
Drawing on extensive research into oral history collections, transcripts of government proceedings, and other primary sources, At Work in the Atomic City is the first detailed account of the workers who built and labored in the facilities that helped ensure the success of the Manhattan Project—a story known, heretofore, only in broad outline.
In 2013, the New York Times identified Nashville as America’s “it” city—a leading hub of music, culture, technology, food, and business. But long before, the Tennessee capital was known as the “Athens of the South,” as a reflection of the city’s reputation for and investment in its institutions of higher education, which especially blossomed after the end of the Civil War and through the New South Era from 1865 to 1930.
This wide-ranging book chronicles the founding and growth of Nashville’s institutions of higher education and their impressive impact on the city, region, and nation at large. Local colleges and universities also heavily influenced Nashville’s brand of modernity as evidenced by the construction of a Parthenon replica, the centerpiece of the 1897 Centennial Exposition. By the turn of the twentieth century, Vanderbilt University had become one of the country’s premier private schools, while nearby Peabody College was a leading teacher-training institution. Nashville also became known as a center for the education of African Americans. Fisk University joined the ranks of the nation’s most prestigious black liberal-arts universities, while Meharry Medical College emerged as one of the country’s few training centers for African American medical professionals. Following the agricultural-industrial model, Tennessee A&I became the state’s first black public college. Meanwhile, various other schools— Ward-Belmont, a junior college for women; David Lipscomb College, the instructional arm of the Church of Christ; and Roger Williams University, which trained black men and women as teachers and preachers—made important contributions to the higher educational landscape. In sum, Nashville was distinguished not only by the quantity of its schools but by their quality.
Linking these institutions to the progressive and educational reforms of the era, Mary Ellen Pethel also explores their impact in shaping Nashville’s expansion, on changing gender roles, and on leisure activity in the city, which included the rise and popularity of collegiate sports. In her conclusion, she shows that Nashville’s present-day reputation as a dynamic place to live, learn, and work is due in no small part to the role that higher education continues to play in the city’s growth and development.
MARY ELLEN PETHEL is the archivist and a member of the Social Science Department at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville. At Belmont University, also in Nashville, Dr. Pethel is a Global Leadership Studies Fellow and teaches in the Honors Department.