Skip to main content

History

The world lost an extraordinary woman on April 22nd, 2021, when former State Senator Thelma Harper passed away. After making history by becoming the first African American female elected to the State Senate, her work of shattering ceilings was far from over. Here's a look back at her impressive career and generous life. 

There are not many picture books about the Holocaust. Published earlier this year, Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued tells two intertwined stories. 

It's insane that Eurocentric beauty standards have made people of the African diaspora think that their natural hair and skin color are unpresentable. --Me

Colonel George H. Morgan received the nation's highest military honor and went on to teach at Hume-Fogg High School in 1924-1925.

Most citizens of this city that have lived here for a few years know what I'm referring to when I say the "Edgehill Polar Bears", but do you know the history of them? Well here are the "bear" necessities.

The phrase "voting rights" encompasses a LOT of history, even when narrowed to the history of voting rights in Tennessee. While I wish I could write a blog post that includes all the important gains and struggles of voting rights in this state, instead, I'm narrowing it to a few highlights, starting with noting the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment. 

Since most of this year has seemed like an episode out of a sci-fi novel, and it's not lost on anyone that we're living through a major historical event, here are some suggestions of important things you might consider keeping for posterity's sake. 

While September is normally my month for educational posts, I'm bypassing that this year for something different - new images and footage! As a continuation from a previous post with old photos, this post includes a slideshow of a collection I've been processing the past few weeks, plus some new footage from our Audiovisual Heritage Center. 

I originally wrote this blog post for March, 2018, because for some unknown reason, genealogy research seems to pick up around the end of February through March. Well, the trend has occurred again during quarantine, and this time makes more sense - you're home and you figure, why not? For whatever reason, we welcome the frequency of usage of our genealogy records. Here's a list of our most helpful and commonly-used materials, and some other tips when doing family research, with a few new additions. 

The world knew Reverend C.T. Vivian and U.S. Rep John Lewis  as giants. But, before they were icons, they were young men beginning a journey in Nashville. 

We celebrate and remember what Reverend C.T. Vivian and U.S. Rep. John Lewis did for Nashville and for Nashville Public Library.

Since we're closed, here's a virtual tour of Metro Archives' current exhibit of "Nashville Voices - 36 Notable Women of Nashville", as it's finished right now. And discussing one of the recently added women in the display - Dr. Josie E. Wells...maybe a couple more individuals as I continue working

This month's Nashville history post is letting photography do the talking, with a variety of slideshows for all to enjoy. Starting with a tribute to all medical workers for their dedicated service during these trying times, to finishing with a little more of "Some Good News - Archives Edition." 

With the extra time on our hands after a month of quarantine, maybe there are other things we can spend our time on, like preserving family ephemera. This is an assisted blog post from my coworker, Christine Irizarry, who writes about the importance of family letters. And the latter part talks about preserving your family records. 

With the changing times and means to educate while schools are closed, it can be difficult for parents-now-turned-teachers to homeschool on such short notice, and possibly without a lot of resources. That's where Metro Archives and the Library come in handy. And who says educating can't be fun? So here's a word search I created with words and names pertaining to the founding of the city of Nashville. 

Soooo this year has started off rather interestingly...and by interesting I mean NOT GREAT, so far. So instead of writing a whole bunch of historic info, I'm just giving you all photos this month. These are some of my favorites from our collection that I hope may bring a smile to some of your faces. 

In honor of African American History Month, and to highlight a few individuals in Metro Archives' new display on Nashville women, this blog post is dedicated to a few notable women of Music City.

2020 is an important anniversary year for a couple of reasons. Most notably is the 19th Amendment, which we'll be celebrating with a new permanent exhibit in Special Collections (in addition to a few other temporary exhibits in the building). But another important Amendment went into effect 100 years ago this month that had a long-lasting impact on the country, and that's Prohibition.

This time of year may mostly be associated with the various holidays we celebrate, but it's also well-associated with cold, awful weather (except for these past few weeks) and keeping ourselves warm with our HVAC systems. However, there was a time in Nashville's past that staying warm also meant being covered in soot as well. 

September of this year has come and gone, and so has 50 years since the release of the The Beatleslast and arguably most iconic album, Abbey Road. Read a little about the history of the album and about The Beatles in Nashville (separately unfortunately, never together). 

Ronald Wimberly has gathered and presents quotes from a dozen black luminaries in mutliple fields. He provides illustrations of each person, some background information, and their most memorable quotes.

The news of Toni Morrison's passing on August 5 was met with tributes and gratitude for a life well lived. While she is best known as the author of such novels as The Bluest Eye and Beloved, Morrison also wrote several books for children. It is not yet too early to introduce the children in your life to the work of this incomparable writer.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. In honor of that momentous occasion, Metro Archives recently had an exhibit highlighting Nashville's impact on space exploration. Here are a few things included in the exhibit! 

In honor of Pride Month and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I looked at the papers of Larry Romans and news coverage about the Nashville LGBTQ community

As part 1 of a 2-part series about the local photography institution that is Dury's, and also in honor of National Photography Month, read about how one of Nashville's oldest businesses got its start and has remained a successful and beloved business in Nashville all of these years. 

This book is a hugely entertaining work of pop history that traces the use of poison as a political—and cosmetic—tool in royal courts, from western Europe in the Middle Ages to today’s Kremlin. 

Nashville's history with theatre and the performing arts is long and storied. You can find treasure after treasure documenting this history in NPL Special Collections. On May 25, Special Collections is playing its own role in the story.

Conspiracy theories are beautiful and dangerous. Beautiful because they connect dots across social, political, and cultural spheres, creating a mosaic of intentions which seems deliberate. They’re dangerous for the exact same reasons. 

This spring, as we read the 2019 Nashville Reads book Hidden Figures, and reimagine our country’s history together, there’s no better place than Nashville Public Library to explore the "hidden figures" in our own local history. Dr. Margaret Rhea Seddon is one of these local hidden figures with an incredible story about reaching the stars.

It's the month of love (well the end of it, but close enough) and therefore that also sometimes means heartbreak, so check out this unfortunate story from Nashville's past (about 90 years ago), about a love affair gone horribly wrong. 

The Nashville Room has a small exhibit of photographs to celebrate the availability of a new collection documenting the activities of the YWCA Blue Triangle Branch. Come see our resources!

The 28 days of February will never be enough to highlight the full depth and breadth of black history in the United States and around the world. Picture books are an ideal (and beautiful) way, however, to address the gaps in our knowledge of the contributions of African Americans to History writ large.

Welcome to the seventh post in Nashville Metro Archives’ Audiovisual Conservation Center’s film preservation mini-series. In this series we’re telling the story of our project to conserve and identify hundreds of previously hidden gems in our film collection. These works document the history and culture of the South and range in date from the 1920’s to the 1990’s.

One of our most-utilized resources here in Special Collections is the Nashville Banner clippings: articles about every aspect of Nashville life from the 1950s through the 1990s. In this post, I use Banner clippings to tell you the story of two popular types of night spot entertainment: mechanical bull riding and karaoke!

Welcome to the sixth post in Nashville Metro Archives’ Audiovisual Conservation Center’s blog mini-series about film preservation. Throughout this series we have taken you through the process of identifying, conserving, and rehousing over 400 rare and unique films from our collection. In this post we will highlight the content of one of our larger film collections. Thanks for joining us!

Welcome to the fifth post in Nashville Metro Archives’ Audiovisual Conservation Center’s blog mini-series! In this series, you are invited in for a behind-the-scenes look at our year-long project to conserve and catalog the archive’s rare and unique film collection.

This Veteran's Day marks the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice between the Allied Countries and Germany, ending the hostilities on the Western Front of the War and officially beginning the end of World War I. 

Anyone that's ever walked down Charlotte Ave, right next to the Capitol, is familar with the statues surrounding its borders (or maybe you're not, that's possible too). But if you are, Sam Davis is on the southwest corner and Sgt. Alvin C. York is on the southeast. But are you familiar with who's standing in the middle, somewhat leering over all who walk beneath him? Or better yet, why he's there?

Every October, the Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word, turns our “it city” into “lit city.” With three days of thoughtful, exciting programming, this event has long been a fall-time favorite, appealing to more than just bookworms. I investigated the roots of this community-building festival using primary and secondary sources from NPL Special Collections.

2018 is a landmark anniversary year for many events, including the worst train accident in U.S. history that occurred at Dutchman's Curve in West Nashville, on Tuesday, July 9th, 1918. 

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the murder of W. Haynie Gourley, the owner of Capitol Chevrolet on Murfreesboro Rd. Today, this tragedy remains as one of Nashville's most notorious unsolved crimes.

It's been 50 years this month since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., yet his actions and teachings have lived on every day since. Coincidentally, the date of his actual birthday this year was celebrated on the same day of the holiday honoring him. In honor of his legacy, here's a look back at how his work affected Nashville...

In honor of African American History Month (and also the month of love), I'm honoring a local Nashville citizen and veteran, Raymond Whittaker, from the small collection of his correspondence, ephemera, and photos we have here in Archives. 

Who loves talking about the weather?! Me, that's who! Did you know the early beginnings of the National Weather Service was actually under the U.S. Army in what was called the Signal Service? Actually it's not that surprising, but what might be is that here in Metro Archives, we have several of their original journals from the Nashville station. Read on if you're intrigued...

 

Most people recognize Nashville as the "Music City" capital of the world, but can you say that you've ever heard its other nickname - "the Powder City of the World"? If you're familiar with the history of the Old Hickory community and the company of DuPont, you probably have. If not, read on. 

Rashad "thaPoet" Rayford shares his reading list for those who wish to further explore activism and civil rights in literature.

Though November marks the last month of his life, May of this year would have marked JFK's 100th birthday; May 29th to be exact. In honor of this milestone, here's a look back at a few of President Kennedy's visits to Nashville, as well as a few anecdotes from people that remember the day he died.

If the name "Paula Herring" sounds familiar to you, then you already know where this blog post is going. But if not, keep reading. I'm about to tell the gruesome tale of young Paula's murder back in 1964, from the info provided by Michael Bishop in his new book, A Murder in Music City: Corruption, Scandal, and the Framing of an Innocent Man.   

Nashville Public Library is excited to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of Ryman Auditorium and host Ryman Auditorium: Soul of Nashville, a brand new art exhibit exploring the iconic venue’s rich history. The exhibit is on display at NPL’s Main Library downtown from October 21 through February 25. 

Going on 60 years ago, Nashville followed suit with the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, and began a "stair-step" plan to integrate public schools. But it wasn't without difficulty or a strong pushback.

Nashville is a city with an easily forgettable past, or rather people would prefer to forget its past. But that doesn't change the fact that it has a rather macabre and peculiar one. In Brian Allison's recently published book "Murder & Mayhem in Nashville," he highlights some of the more gruesome tales from Nashville's past.

Prior to the opening of the Nashville Zoo in Cheatham County, in 1991, the city came close to purchasing animals for a zoo around the time the Metro Government formed (1963). I recently stumbled upon this intriguing story and thought it was too good not to share. 

June 1, 1796 was the birth year for Tennessee as a state. Feels like it was just yesterday. In honor of its many years since, here's a brief recap of its birth and how the state chose to celebrate each of its earned centennials. 

Nashville may be known as Music City, but we also LOVE our professional sports – whether the boys have sticks, bats, or footballs, fans will turn out to cheer on our local teams.

The one thing that I love to tell people about when they visit Metro Archives, is that we're more than simply a repository for city-wide governmental records. Yes, the records we have are archaic in nature and therefore highly informative and fascinating. But it's the photographs we also have from around the city that are most-telling about the city's past. In honor of National Photography month, check out some of the best photos from around our beloved city.

Though its expansive campus can be seen from the fast lanes of I-65 S just past Armory Lane, Father Ryan High School hasn't always called their Norwood Drive location home. On top of possessing photographs of the previous location's building and demolition in our clippings' file on the school, Metro Archives also holds several other treasures that easily tell stories about the school's past.  

Considering how in our modern day and age, seeing (and hearing) airplanes regularly cross Nashville's skies does not appear to make us think twice, doesn't it make you wonder what life must have been like when the first forms of flight were being tested? I suppose to us, it would literally be like seeing pigs fly. Almost. Well Metro Archives is attempting to answer that question. Starting March 28th and running through May 31st, there will an exhibit in Metro Archives highlighting the advancement of aviation technology as Nashville experienced it.  

Textbooks are filled with the accomplishments of men throughout history but where are all the women? 

In honor of African American History Month, I'm recognizing the first African American woman elected to the Tennessee State Senate—Senator Thelma Harper of District 19. Prior to her 1991 historic election to the State Senate, Harper served 8 years on Davidson County's Metro Council.  

Greetings!  I’m always up for a good scare or haunting, and when this book came sliding through my hands, I set it aside out of a sense of duty because I am the Yankee who has lived here for twenty-five years and still doesn’t know enough about the Bell Witch to sound respectable around a cracker barrel. 

Hard to believe it's been 18 years since the Titans' first game in their new home and in their new jerseys. Throughout many seasons, players, and a couple of coaches, the team has remained a hometown favorite (well, in my opinion - my favorite) and that includes its stadium. 20 years ago this May, construction began on the field that was initially crowned "Adelphia Coliseum." Would you believe Metro Archives has several photographs taken of the construction process? If you enjoy a little Titans nostalgia like I do, check out some of the best photos below. 

The Special Collections Division holds a surprisingly wide array of resources about local radio stations and radio culture.

Tennessee stayed true to their nickname as the "volunteer state" after the attack on Pearl Harbor, that occured 75 years ago this month. Here are a few news clippings and photographs from the days after the attack.  

December 10th is Human Rights Day and the library has the information to help you answer "What is that?"

Though this was the first year that Metro Nashville Government closed for Veteran's Day, we've never neglected honoring the ever-important holiday. Check out some of the documents and memorabilia from Metro Archives.   

Metro Archives recently received a small donation of documents/photographs/clippings for a couple of local Nashville families' vertical files. The families that are related by marriage are the McClanahans and the Weakley - 2 families that I found after a little research, have prominent roots in Nashville. The photographs donated date to around the early 20th century and are without doubt, very remarkable. However, many came without a caption or any identifiers at all, and they're not all in Nashville. The families appeared to have traveled a lot. Can you help us out and help identify a few of these locations?  

The educational system in Nashville has changed quite a bit over the years, but the core subjects have always remained at the forefront of teaching. But with a few changes, would you have excelled if you had been in school about 100 years ago?

The 59th remembrance of a courageous action is coming upon us. Take some time to remember, or learn, about one of the most well-known events involving school desegregation in the South: the Little Rock Crisis.

Something about old Bibles has always intrigued me. The "family pages" carefully chronicle the story of those who create the records the Archives carefully protects. Stories of beginnings, births, baptisms, and deaths comprising the framework of lives well lived.

Did you know that Nashville has a history with the Olympics? It's not a big one mind you, but it exists. Today, we recognize the 1996 Olympics as the last Summer Olympics that any U.S. city hosted, and that was in Atlanta (Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002). But what about Nashville? A lot of people might think we're too small and don't have the infrastructure, but that wasn't the concern many years ago when Nashville put together a pretty strong campaign to host the 1996 Olympics. 

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom called on the United States to hold to its promise of freedom and justice for all, not just for the few. Though we have come far, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of freedom and equality, proclaimed that day, remains to be fully realized. The books below are a good place for preschoolers and other young children to begin learning about the March on Washington, MLK, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement.

As another school year begins, thousands of parents will reconvene together with local schoolteachers in parent-teacher organizations and associations.

Everyone is familiar with the name and what they are most known for, but do you really know about the history of the American Red Cross? Specifically, the history of the local chapter of the American Red Cross. This is part two of their story (explained as brief as possible) discussing their involvement during the second world war and the many years after. 

The Red Cross is a storied and dedicated organization that spans decades, continents, wars, and various disasters. The American Red Cross was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton. And though the Nashville Chapter received their official charter in 1917, their relief work for local troops and citizens began long before then. In honor of their dedicated service, next month, Metro Archives will be exhibiting artifacts and documents from our American Red Cross collection. This is part 1 of their history, stay tuned next month for part 2.

On March 22, 1916, a fire raged through East Nashville. By the end of day, more than 600 homes and businesses were destroyed by fire over 35 city blocks.

June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness month, and the Special Collections Division has numerous veterans' stories which discuss this issue.

We've all seen some of the amazing puppet shows that Wishing Chair Productions has put on, and therefore, we've seen the diverse collection of puppets that they have. But there is one set of puppets that is no longer performed with but still represents the uniqueness of their collection - a very old set of Punch & Judy puppets. In honor of the Nashville International Puppet Festival coming up in June, this set of archaic dolls will be on display in Non-Fiction for your viewing pleasure.

Good gossip! Here’s a book chock-full of juicy tidbits about the Presidential families, going all the way back to the Truman administration. You'll get to witness first-hand the details of life in the White House during some of its most tense and historical moments: the assassination of President Kennedy, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the Nixon disgrace and resignation, the Clinton sex scandal, told by those who saw the events unfold. These stories add another layer of interest to what we learned about these events through the news media.

53 years ago, the government that Nashville now knows well as the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County was implemented, consolidating 2 separately-operating governments into one. Learn a little more about that consolidation process and how it has defined us as a city today.

This week is National Library Week, and the American Library Association has selected "Libraries Transform" as its theme. While the Nashville Public Library has received widespread recognition in recent years, we have a long history of innovation and outreach to our community.

I transferred to the Archives a month ago and I've been trying to learn all that I can about the Archive's collections. One of the coolest collections I recently stumbled upon is the small collection we have for the Nashville College for Young Ladies. In honor of Women's History Month, what better topic to discuss than women's education?

The holiday season brings with it tables full of home-baked goodness. Cookies, cakes, pies, turkey, ham, potatoes, casseroles – the list is nearly infinite. The next time all the cooking seems to be just too much for you – consider our foremothers a century ago.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is a film about the history of the Black Panther Party containing rare archival footage and interviews with the people who were a part of it, including members Kathleen Cleaver, Emory Douglas, Ericka Huggins, and Jamal Joseph. 

What’s a girl to do when she has to leave her home, move to a strange country, and marry a man she’s never met? What can any woman do when she finds herself miles away from everything she knows, hemmed in on all sides by intrigue and shackled to a man who may be old, ugly, diseased, a drooling imbecile or all four at once? If she’s a queen, she might just take a handsome lover!

What is "ephemera"? And how do you pronounce it, anyway? Ephemera (pronounced: "i-FEM-ur-uh"), refers to anything short-lived. Today we may be more familiar with the adjective, "ephemeral," used to describe fresh-cut flowers, a misty morning, or the rapidly changing colors of a fading sunset. But the noun, used in a library or archives setting, more often refers to two-dimensional objects, usually made out of paper, designed for limited use, often for just one day.

I often marvel at how amazing it is that we have letters from Civil War soldiers, store ledgers from the 1900s, and interviews with people that lived through the Great Depression.

One of our most prized possessions at the Metro Archives is a rare cookbook compiled for the first Tennessee State Fair, held in Nashville at the fairgrounds in 1906. There are few of these left, and it's an artifact that marks a tradition that has been part of Nashville's history for over a century.

Kramer has teased readers with this work for thirty years. Four years ago, I mentioned I was anxious for it come out. All 775 pages of Volume 1 have finally arrived. Need blurbs? It’s the gay history of the United States. Kramer’s theories are so controversial his publisher would only release American People as fiction though it started as straight (forgive the pun) nonfiction. 

And now I want to go to culinary school. Don’t get me wrong I love my job and I really have no desire to start working every night and holiday in a hot, sweaty kitchen being yelled at by some Gordon Ramsey wanna be because my risotto’s al dente.

And yet.

The worst thing about history is its lack of monsters. There’s Hitler, of course, the gold standard of historical bad guys, but when I say monsters I mean MONSTERS--mysterious, possibly hairy and/or scaly creatures of unknown origin, things you run from in the night and hope aren’t lurking under your bed. Unfortunately, monsters like Hitler are real and those other guys aren’t, but that leads us to the best thing about history: you don’t have to let facts get in the way of telling a good story.