NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – A Tennessee State University (TSU) professor and historian has archived untold stories from the civil rights movement of local Nashvillians in a public app.
“This app will make it possible to ask better questions about Nashville history or gain a deeper understanding of Nashville history,” explained Dr. Learotha Williams Jr., associate professor of African American and public history. from Tennessee State University and coordinator of the North Nashville Heritage Project.
The project started in his class.
“[It] started as an accident. I mean because the North Nashville project started in 2010, because the student asked me a question that I couldn’t answer. I was like, ‘OK, well, we’re gonna figure it out together,'” Williams shared.
The app, slated to launch in May 2022, will feature images, photographed artifacts, audio and video interviews telling the stories of Nashvillians who provide more context to the civil rights movement beyond the leaders taught in books. ‘story.
“I’m looking for marginalized voices, people that we may have overlooked or just dismissed,” Williams explained.
Williams said she found these voices in barbershops, at food counters and in the back of a room trying to go unnoticed.
“It gave me the opportunity, I think, to share the rich history of this university, as well as its very intimate relationship with the North Nashville community,” Williams said. “I tell my students that one of the greatest dramas in civil rights history unfolded on Jefferson Street in terms of how we define ourselves as Americans in terms of how we let’s consider what democracy looks like, and of course, protests. This area between Jefferson Street and between and downtown is a big stage in American history.”
Williams said her goal was to make these stories accessible through the media app and help Tennesseans realize how integral TSU was to the civil rights movement in Nashville.
“It’s very necessary. Because we need different ways to tell stories to a wider audience and just to make the story more accessible,” Williams said. “TSU has something to say about how Nashville evolved into the place we know today.”
Williams stressed that the project will never be finished as new stories may be added to continue to paint a clearer picture of the movement in Nashville.
“Our students who were 20 at the time, they’re 70 and up in their 80s and there are interviews that I missed,” Williams explained, “Then, you know, they left. So will their stories be buried in Greenwood Cemetery with them so there is urgency I hope maybe this app catches their attention and then says okay, well, “I have something to say about it”.
To submit a story that provides context to the civil rights movement in Nashville, email Williams and the North Nashville Heritage Project: [email protected]