MUSIC CITY MULTICULTURAL EVENTS, ATTRACTIONS & POINTS OF INTEREST
African Street Festival
Each September on Tennessee State University’s main campus, the African Street Festival celebrates the sounds of Africa. This free event offers daily stage shows featuring poetry, rap, reggae, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B and drama. During the festival, there are over 150 vendors from around the country selling Afrocentric wares from ankhs to zebra skin fabrics.
Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival
This international festival featuring food, art and fun draws representatives from more than 50 cultures showcasing the diversity of Middle Tennessee each October. Activities include music, dance, an international food court and an international market.
In September, experience Greek culture with dance, music and food at the annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Tours of the cathedral with its Byzantine-style sanctuary and hand-painted iconography are included with the admission cost.
Jefferson Street Jazz & Blues Festival
Each June, Jefferson Street keeps the music tradition alive with its annual Jazz & Blues Festival. This free festival is a full day of music and great food. From the 1940s through the early 60s, Jefferson Street was one of America’s best-known districts for jazz, blues and R&B. Famous African-American musicians like Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Memphis Slim played repeatedly in the many clubs.
Music City Soul Series
In celebration of Black History Month, Nashville hosts the Music City Soul Series. This weekly concert series offers the best in soul, jazz, blues, and R&B every Thursday night in February at Jazz and Jokes.
NAIA Pow Wow
The NAIA Pow Wow brings together Native Americans from across the nation and Canada. Held at Four Corners Marina in October during Tennessee Native American Indian Month, the festival includes competitive dancing, storytelling, demonstrations, fine art displays and food booths with traditional dishes from different tribes. Billed as the largest Pow Wow east of the Mississippi River, the festival serves as a reunion of family and friends, as well as a celebration of culture still nurtured by the 10,000 Native Americans who call Tennessee home today.
Tribute to African Americans in the Battle of Nashville
Held in December, this three-day commemoration pays tribute to African Americans who fought in the Battle of Nashville; a decisive Civil War engagement. Activities take place at Fort Negley, National Cemetery and Seay Hubbard Church.
The American Negro Playwright Theatre
The American Negro Playwright Theatre (ANPT) is a local theatre company housed at Tennessee State University’s Thomas Edward Poag Auditorium. Students perform various roles, including acting in major productions, and also have an opportunity to work with professionals in the area of theatre. ANPT aims to bridge theatre arts and the community, inviting anyone to witness the black experience, regardless of their own race or family background. These plays are drawn from the experiences of black Americans and are intended to dissipate stereotypes and promote cultural diversity.
Belle Meade Plantation
This historic venue showcases the 1853 Greek revival mansion and seven outbuildings including the colossal Carriage House and stables housing an antique carriage collection. Experience the stories of enslaved African Americans who helped build and maintain the world-famous thoroughbred plantation in the 19th century. One hundred years of history come to life as costumed guides tell stories of life at Belle Meade.
Civil Rights Room
The Civil Rights Room is located in the Downtown Public Library. With a $1 million donation earmarked for establishing a collection of materials documenting Nashville’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, the room features a replica lunch counter with timelines of local and national events in the Civil Rights Movement.
The nationally historic Nashville sit-ins of the 1960s were the inspiration for the special collection. Large format photographs of those sit-ins form the backdrop of the room. In the center of the room resides a circular lunch counter surrounded by stools designed to replicate the settings of many nonviolent demonstrations led by students from local universities that began in Nashville on February 13, 1960.
Additionally, the Nashville Public Library continues to grow its Civil Rights Oral History collection. Seeking to collect the oral histories of participants and witnesses of the student sit-ins in Nashville, the library has collected 40 interviews to date, which will be available to researchers once the interviews are transcribed and cataloged.
Founded by the American Missionary Association and the Western Freedman’s Aid Commission, Fisk University began in 1866 as the Fisk School, a free school for blacks in Nashville. Jubilee Hall, completed in 1875, was the first permanent building erected for the higher education of African Americans in the United States, and is now a National Historical Landmark. Money for its construction was raised by the Jubilee Singers whose worldwide singing tours brought them international acclaim. Additionally, the Little Theatre, built in 1860, is the oldest structure on the campus of Fisk University. Erected as part of the Union Army Hospital barracks during the Civil War, it was readapted for use as the campus theatre in 1935.
Also on Fisk’s campus is the Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery, named for the New York music critic, art collector and photographer who inspired the 1949 donation of the Stieglitz Collection to the university by Alfred Stieglitz’s widow Georgia O’Keeffe. The collection includes original works by Cézanne, Picasso, Renoir, O’Keeffe, and others. Furthermore, in the gallery’s collection are paintings by Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas who headed the Fisk Art Department for many years.
Fort Negley was the largest and most important fortification built by Union troops occupying Nashville during the Civil War. Built in 1862 on St. Cloud Hill, the complex fort was designed with European features. Using a partial star-shape design, the unique layout of the fort allowed crossfire against the Confederate army.
Intent on keeping control of Nashville because of its important transportation means with river and rail, the Union army constructed the 180,000-square-foot fort covering four acres. Two thousand African- American workers, some slaves and some free blacks, built the fort for the Union army in preparations for the Battle of Nashville. Approximately 800 people died while building the fort, and many more African-American soldiers died during the Battle of Nashville. Because the Union army would not supply weapons to the black soldiers or slaves, they were forced to protect themselves with shovels and picks.
The fort fell into disrepair after the war but was restored in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration only to deteriorate again. Because of its rich Civil War history, the fort was again renovated and reopened to the public in 2004 and the Fort Negley Visitor Center opened in 2007. Fort Negley is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1906, Preston Taylor established Greenwood Park adjacent to Greenwood Cemetery. The privately-owned park opened at a time when African-American citizens were not permitted in public parks. Encompassing almost 40 acres of open land, Greenwood Park included a clubhouse, theater, skating rink, roller coaster, shooting gallery, merry-go-round, and baseball park (home of the Greenwood Giants). Today you can visit the former site of the park at the northwest corner of Elm Hill Pike and Spence Lane adjacent to Greenwood Cemetery.
Established in 1912, Hadley Park is thought to be the first public park for African-American citizens in the United States. The 34-acre park stands on part of the antebellum plantation of John L. Hadley, a white slaveowner committed to helping post Civil War freed men and women adjust to their new status. At Hadley’s invitation, Frederick Douglass spoke to former slaves in 1873 from the porch of the Hadley house, which stood in the park until 1948. Tennessee State University stands on another portion of the Hadley land. Today, Hadley Park also offers baseball fields, tennis courts, picnic shelters, a playground, and summer concerts. The park is located at the intersection of 28th Avenue North and Centennial Boulevard.
The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson
Born a slave on The Hermitage plantation, and known simply as Alfred, this now-legendary man assisted with the horses and maintained the wagons and the farm equipment. After emancipation, he chose to remain on the plantation as a tenant farmer and lived at The Hermitage longer than anyone else, white or black. Additionally, when The Hermitage was opened to the public as a presidential home, Alfred was the first tour guide telling visitors authentic stories about President Andrew Jackson. When Alfred died in 1901, his funeral was held in the center hall of the mansion, and he was buried in the family garden next to the President himself. Alfred was the only non-family member buried in Rachel’s garden.
Home of the Stars
As the home of the Stellar Awards, Nashville is also home to entertainers such as:
- BeBe Winans
- CeCe Winans
- Take Six
- Kirk Whalum
- Ben Tankard
- Tommy Sims
George W. Hubbard, a professor in local African-American schools after the Civil War, built a house in 1920 when he retired as president of Meharry Medical College. The house, designed by Moses McKissack III, is a four-square Colonial Revival style structure and is the last vestige of the original Meharry campus. Now on the property of the Seay-Hubbard United Methodist Church, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes.
From the 1930s through the early 1960s, Jefferson Street was one of America’s best-known districts of jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues. Famous African-American musicians played regularly in the many clubs — Club Baron, Del Morocco and the New Era Club. Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Memphis Slim performed here regularly. Etta James recorded a live album, Etta James Rocks the House, at The New Era Club. Nashville artists, many with hit records, made the district their home.
Show business headliners stopped in Nashville to try their acts. The Silver Streak, the great off-Jefferson Street ballroom, booked such big names as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Members of the old Negro Baseball League and recording artists such as Ruth Brown, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald stayed at Brown’s Hotel and played the famous Blue Room at Del Morocco, owned by “Uncle” Teddy Acklen.
In 1994, a group of concerned citizens — homeowners, business owners, longtime residents and developers with new construction in mind — met to create a framework for advancing Jefferson Street. The result of their vision of progress was the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership (JUMP), a non-profit organization whose mission is “To develop, foster and promote cooperative economic development through revitalization, acquisition, education and public safety programs in North Nashville.”
Today more than 111 individuals and organizations make up JUMP’s active membership with one thing in common: keeping Jefferson Street alive and thriving. www.jumptojefferson.com
Mount Ararat Cemetery
Founded in 1869, Mount Ararat Cemetery was Nashville’s first African-American cemetery. The cemetery, acquired in 1982 by Greenwood Cemetery, has been restored and renamed Greenwood Cemetery West. One of the many leaders buried there is Dr. Robert Fulton Boyd. Boyd was an African-American physician and graduate of Meharry Medical College who helped found the National Baptist Association, a national association for black physicians.
National Museum of African American Music
On October 25, 2004, Governor Phil Bredesen set aside 3.86 acres of prime real estate in the northwest corner of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall for the development of a national museum for African-American music, history, and culture in Nashville. The 30-year lease included a “no charge” agreement to develop the state-owned property and also included the option to purchase the property for $1 at the expiration of the lease.
The National Museum of African American Music, opening date TBD, will stand as an international iconic cultural museum dedicated to the vast contributions African Americans have made in music. As the only museum in the nation with a dedicated focus on all dimensions of the contributions African Americans have made to American music, NMAAM will encompass musical distinctions that reinforce the impact of African Americans across the country and around the world.
POINTS OF INTEREST
African Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday School Union is an African American-owned publishing company. 500 8th Ave. South. 615-254-0911
American Baptist College was founded by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1924 for the development of African-American pastors. 1800 Baptist World Center Dr. 615-256-1463. www.abcnash.edu
Art Galleries in Music City include Fisk University’s Carl Van Vechten Gallery and the Aaron Douglas Gallery, as well as In The Gallery, featuring art and paintings by African Americans. 615-726-4894, 615- 255-0705, fisk.edu; In the Gallery, 624-A Jefferson Street. 615-255-0705, inthegallery-nashville.com
Baptist World Center is headquarters for the National Baptist Convention of the United States of America. 1700 World Baptist Center Dr. 615-228-6292. nationalbaptist.com
R.H. Boyd Publishing Corp. is one of the oldest minority-owned publishing companies in the country, celebrating 110 years. 6717 Centennial Blvd. 615-350-8000. rhboydpublishing.com
Citizens Bank is one of the oldest minority-owned banks in the United States. 2013 Jefferson St. 615-327-9787
Fisk Jubilee Singers were the first world-touring musical group and the first representatives of Nashville as Music City. They were among the inaugural inductees in the Music City Walk of Fame in 2006. fiskjubileesingers.org
Fisk Jubilee Relations Institute was organized in 1942 to analyze the reasons for division among races, ethnicity and religion. (615) 329-8575
Grand Ole Opry has been on the air for more than 85 years. Charley Pride got his start in Nashville on the stage of the Opry. DeFord Bailey, the “Harmonica Wizard,” is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. 2802 Opryland Dr. 615-889-6600, opry.com
Greenwood Cemetery was established in 1888 by Preston Taylor, one of the founders of Citizens Bank. Outstanding Nashvillians buried in the cemetery are three of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, DeFord Bailey (the first black Grand Ole Opry performer), civil rights leader Kelly Miller Smith, famed evangelist Marshall Keeble and others.
Harper's Restaurant serves mouth-watering Southern food and is owned by Paul and Senator Thelma Harper, prominent Nashvillians and community leaders. 2610 Jefferson St. 615-329-1909
House of God Church - Keith Dominion, one of the United States’ oldest conventions, is held yearly in June in Nashville. The House of God Church owns more land in Nashville than any other African-American church. 2717 W. Heiman St. 615-329-1625
Mary's Old-Fashioned Bar-B-Que is a Nashville tradition for mouth-watering ribs. 1108 Jefferson Street, 615-256-7696
Meharry Medical College at one time was responsible for graduating more than 50 percent of African-American health care professionals in the U.S. 1005 D.B.Todd Jr. Blvd. 615-327-6111. www.mmc.edu
Nashville Public Library offers a permanent exhibit in the Civil Rights Room, which captures the drama of the 1960s when non-violent demonstrations in Nashville sparked the Civil Rights Movement. 615 Church Street, 615-862- 5800, www.library.nashville.org
National Baptist Publishing Board was established in 1896 and is one of the oldest minority-owned publishing companies in the United States. 6717 Centennial Blvd. 615-256-2480
- B.B. King’s Blues Club
152 Second Ave. N. 615-256-2727
- Bourbon St. Blues & Boogie Bar
220 Printers Alley, 615-242-5837
- Kijiji Coffee House
1413 Jefferson Street. 615-321-0403
- F. Scott’s
2210 Crestmoor Rd. 615-269-5861
601 12 Avenue South, 615-248-2888
Swett's Restaurant is the oldest minority-owned restaurant in Nashville, serving unforgettable meals since 1954. 2725 Clifton Avenue. 615-329-4418. Or Swett’s Farmers’ Market at 900 8th Avenue North. 615-742-0699
Ted Rhodes Golf Course was named for the first African-American Nashville native to ever play in a PGA event. 1901 Ed Temple Blvd. 615-862-8463
Tennessee State University, founded in 1912, has produced more Olympic gold medalists than any other university in the United States. This historically African-American school is the alma mater of Olympic champion Wilma Rudolph and Oprah Winfrey. 3500 John A. Merritt Blvd. 615-963-5000. tnstate.edu