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Students from University Course ‘Historic Black Nashville’ Reflect on Visit to Nashville Public Library

Posted by on Thursday, June 7, 2018 in Historic Black Nashville, News.

The University Course ‘Historic Black Nashville’ was offered for the second time during the spring 2018 semester. To chronicle some of the highlights of the course, several students authored blogs reflecting on site visits the class took during the semester. Over the next few weeks, these blogs will be published on the VU BreakThru webpage.

The first two featured blogs focus on the class visit to the Nashville Public Library.

Written by Océane Parker
Nashville Public LibraryGrowing up, I was infatuated with libraries – the endless stacks of books ranging from histories to drama with endless hours of browsing available. However, I became more aware of the resources libraries provide – they’re not only a place to find a wealth of intellectual stimulus, but also a place to learn history and conduct research. In a class focused on exploring the history of our community, understanding that the Nashville Public Library as both a historic and current institution in the lives of Nashville’s residents played a significant role in my appreciation for our visit. I quite enjoyed the civil rights room, which houses an incredibly prominent element of our community’s history.

Beyond this, we were given the opportunity to tour the library’s archives. Seeing tangible evidence of the history we have collected was incredible. Seeing the head of the archive so passionate about the history he has access to and the potential for discovery in archival research helped me to better appreciate the work that goes into piecing history together. Translating this to my own research project provided me with a better-informed attitude regarding a task otherwise completely unrelated to my personal career goals – both in the intensity and in the opportunity for discovery.

Written by Miguel Moravec Nashville Public Library
The Nashville Public Library was the largest building we visited on our tour of sites and one of the best! The grand staircases, great chambers and high ceilings had a way of making our trip feel particularly important – a feeling that only intensified once we entered the civil rights room. Immediately upon entering the room, and suspended on 10-foot glass, reads a Martin Luther King Jr. quote: “I came to Nashville not to bring inspiration, but to gain inspiration from the great movement that has taken place in this community.” Wow! My hometown in the north certainly did not attract such praise from the King. I instantly understood that my college town was a key battleground in the fight for racial equality and felt the sort of weight that was implied by the need for that struggle in this city at all. I admired the choice of round table as the room’s centerpiece, not just for its clever integration of an engaging civil rights timeline, but also because circles are the preferred shape for the assembly of equals, bringing everyone equidistant from the conversation center.

Navy CrestAs I heard on a virtual tour of the White House once: “round rooms are the pillar of democracy!” Pivoting around, I was surprised to find a quote near and dear to my undergraduate experience mounted above the room’s entrance: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” A panel of student midshipmen representatives and I had selected that phrase to be the motto for the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2017, embroidering it on our class crest in Latin. After all those years, I had no idea that the quote was attributed to Congressman John Lewis, who coined it while advocating for civil rights. My understanding of the call to service was further redefined when I saw, down and to the left of the quote, John Lewis’ mugshot blown up on a poster board. The future congressman was arrested while standing up for what he believed in during a peaceful protest. The display was an important reminder to me that there are many paths to service, often beyond what is prescribed by the status quo.


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