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Re-Introducing ‘Historic Black Nashville’

Posted by on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 in Historic Black Nashville, News.

Co-Written by Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History Jane Landers and Professor of Law Daniel Sharfstein


Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History Jane Landers

Following a successful launch of our University Course Historic Black Nashville’ last year, we are eagerly looking forward to co-teaching the second iteration of the course this spring.  We look forward to building upon the research our students accomplished last year and working with this semester’s cohort of would-be historians eager to help us explore Nashville’s often-obscured black history and make it visible to a wider public.

Thanks to Innovator in Residence Andrew Maraniss, this semester’s class will be hosted at the Wond’ry, a stimulating environment for envisioning new ways to bring history alive. Students will read about Nashville’s history and about how museums and public exhibits portray black history at other sites. They will become researchers themselves at the Nashville Public Library, the Tennessee State Library & Archives, Metro-Davidson County Archives and Fisk University’s Special Collections & Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery.


Professor of Law Daniel Sharfstein

Our students will also learn about Nashville’s black history through visits to places such as Fort Negley, the largest inland stone fort in the United States. The fort was built during the Civil War largely by thousands of African Americans who had fled slavery and the rebel threat and sought safety and the promise of freedom among Union forces. We also plan to visit Tolbert Hollow, where a descendant of one of Nashville’s first black businessmen and land owners will discuss his family’s history and conduct a tour of the family cemetery. Nashville’s City Cemetery will provide additional information on Nashville’s early black community. Throughout the course, we will conduct research on Nashville’s black churches, schools, sites of civic activism and protest, and the history of racial violence in the area.

Our students will benefit from the support of Vanderbilt’s librarians, who will introduce them to the primary sources, websites and mapping programs available for their interdisciplinary research projects.

We encourage you to ask a question or leave a comment in the space provided below, and invite you to return to this blog page often throughout the semester for entries written by us and our students.

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