Diversity is a key part of the city's past, present and future. Nashville is a model of the American “melting pot” with a deep African American history, an active Native American population, thriving Hispanic community, and growing Middle Eastern and Asian presence. Different cultures, religions, ideas, and customs come together harmoniously in Music City.
Multicultural Heritage and Events
AFRICAN STREET FESTIVAL
Each September on Tennessee State University’s main campus, the African Street Festival celebrates the sounds of Africa. This free three-day 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
In a city where one in six residents is foreign-born, the Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival is a celebration and reminder of what makes Nashville a unique and diverse city. This international festival takes place at Centennial Park features food, art, and fun, which 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.
JEFFERSON STREET JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVAL
Each June, Jefferson Street keeps the music tradition alive with its annual Jazz & Blues Festival. This 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.
NAIA POW WOW
The NAIA Pow Wow brings together Native Americans from across the nation and Canada. Held at Long Hunter State Park 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.
NASHVILLE GREEK FESTIVAL
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.
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. The collection of materials documents Nashville’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and 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.
*PLEASE NOTE: took out Carl Van Vechten gallery lines
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.
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 slave-owner 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.
ANDREW JACKSON'S HERMITAGE, HOME OF THE PEOPLE'S PRESIDENT
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.
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.”
A great way to explore Jefferson Street is through the Jefferson St. Sunset Walking Tour, offered by United Street Tours. Visit www.unitedstreettours.com to learn more.
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
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.
WILLIAM EDMONDSON AT CHEEKWOOD
Born in Davidson County around 1883 to former slave parents, William Edmondson worked as a railroad and hospital laborer until 1931, when he began to produce primitive limestone carvings. A deeply religious man, Edmondson believed that he was called by God to carve stones. Without formal training, he first began carving simple tombstones and later primitive animals, angels, Biblical characters, and even celebrities such as Eleanor Roosevelt. Famed photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe's images of Edmondson's works for Harper's Bazaar led to a 1937 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Edmondson was the first African-American artist to be honored with a one-man exhibit at the museum. Many of Edmondson's work is part of Cheekwood's permanent art collection.
POINTS OF INTEREST
AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION is an African American-owned publishing company. 500 8th Ave. S. amecpublishinghouse.com/about_us.php
AMERICAN BAPTIST COLLEGE was founded by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1924 for the development of African-American pastors. 1800 Baptist World Center Dr. abcnash.edu
BAPTIST WORLD CENTER is headquarters for the National Baptist Convention of the United States of America. 1700 World Baptist Center Dr. nationalbaptist.com
CUPCAKE COLLECTION is located in the heart of Historic Germantown. Cupcake Collection features made-from-scratch daily cupcakes and icings, at only $1.50 each. 1213 6th Ave. N. thecupcakecollection.com
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. fisk.edu/about/history
GARDEN BRUNCH CAFE is one of Nashville’s premier brunch venues that has an upscale and comfortable atmosphere. Enjoy original cuisine, artwork and ambiance. On occasion, Garden Brunch Cafe will entertain you with spoken-word or jazz inspired nights. 924 Jefferson St. sites.google.com/site/gardenbrunchcafe1/home
THE 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. opry.com
GREENWOOD CEMETERY was established in 1888 by Preston Taylor, one of the founders of Citizens Bank. Outstanding Nashvillians buried in the cemetery include 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. greenwoodcemetery.com
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. harperssoulfood.com
MARY'S OLD FASHIONED PIT BAR-B-QUE is a Nashville tradition for mouth-watering ribs. 1108 Jefferson St.
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. mmc.edu
NASHVILLE MULTICULTURAL CHAMBERS/ ORGANIZATIONS include:
- African Caribbean Institute, 904 Kipling Dr. 615-399-7955
- African Chamber of Commerce, 904 Kipling Dr. 615-399-7955
- Jefferson United Merchants Partnership (JUMP), 1215 9th Ave. N. jumptojerrson.com
- Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, 211 Commerce St., Suite 100 nashvillechamber.com
- Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 40541 nashvillehispanicchamber.com
- Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce, 4322 Harding Pike, Suite 100 nasvhilleblackchamber.org
- NAACP, 1308 Jefferson St. naacpnashville.org
- Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce, 1801 West End Ave., Suite 1150 tccc.us
- Tennessee Christian Chamber of Commerce, 5543 Edmondson Pike, Suite 208 tnchristianchamber.org
- Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce, 9003 Overlook Blvd. TLACC.org
- Urban League of Middle Tennessee, 2214 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Suite 100 urbandleagueofmidtn.org
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 St. library.nashville.org
R.H. BOYD PUBLISHING CORP. is one of the oldest minority-owned publishing companies in the country, celebrating 110 years. 6717 Centennial Blvd. rhboydpublishing.com
SWETT'S RESTAURANT is the oldest minority-owned restaurant in Nashville, serving unforgettable meals since 1954. 2725 Clifton Ave. swettsrestaurant.com
TED RHODES GOLF COURSE was named for the first African-American Nashville native to ever play in a PGA event. 1901 Ed Temple Blvd. nashville.gov/Play/Parks-and-Recreation.aspx
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. tnstate.edu
The African American Guide to Nashville can be accessed online, please visit taagtn.net for additional information.