North Nashville Heritage Project
Preserving & Sharing a Rich History
Gateway to Heritage Plaza
During the twentieth century, North Nashville—an area that provided a welcoming refuge for its residents and black visitors from the degrading effects of Jim Crow—became a place where black businesses thrived, new cultural art forms grew, and young black minds flourished. It was here that the descendants of formerly enslaved African Americans who migrated to the area after the Civil War created families and developed institutions that assisted them in their efforts to lay claim to the elusive American dream.
However, the welcoming neighborhood and bustling business district could not completely insulate the residents from Nashville’s sustained efforts to maintain their status as second-class citizens. This New South version of American racism ultimately led to the neighborhood’s creation, maintenance, and inevitable decimation. Though successful at making lives for themselves against incredible odds, much of the historical record obfuscates, misrepresents, and erases the history of the people who called this area home.
The North Nashville Heritage Project posits that if an accurate history of Nashville in the 20th century is to be written and we are to gain a deeper understanding of the social, economic, and political forces that led to its rise and decline, historians must amplify the voices of individuals who represent the majority of its residents—voices that may not necessarily be a part of the community represented by its celebrated entertainers, prominent businessmen and women, and religious leaders.
Established in 2010, with the assistance of students enrolled in an Introduction to Public History course at Tennessee State University, the NNHP seeks to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the history of North Nashville and its historic relationship to the greater Nashville community. While studying the history of the community, the NNHP encourages students to engage and develop permanent relationships with its residents, businessmen, and politicians with the hope of advancing effective strategies for improving lives of the people that call the area home.
If you are a past or current resident of North Nashville or have memories of the community you would like to share, we encourage you to contact Dr. Learotha Williams Jr. at 615.963.5513 or via email to arrange an interview. The North Nashville Heritage Project is especially interested in the community’s oral history, stories of marginalized groups, the area's historic natural and built environment, and its material culture.
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