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Resources in African American History and Civil Rights. at the Tennessee State Library & Archives. Where does the story of Civil Rights begin?. 1624 : Africans were imported as slaves to New York’s Hudson River Valley. 1645 : The TRIANGULAR SLAVE TRADE began:
Tennessee State Library & Archives
1624: Africans were imported as slaves to New York’s Hudson River Valley.
1688: Pennsylvania Quakers organized the first American protest against slavery.
but exploitation of black workers continued . . .
“I lost 48 hours trying to get Negroes, teams, tools, cooking utensils, and provisions. Only 150 Negroes so far, no tools, teams, etc. I wanted to employ 825 Negroes by the 11th.” (telegram, Gen. Morton to Gen. Buell, August 1862)
Fort Negley, Nashville
“At African church a negro man shot down by the guards engaged in pressing*. It is the custom of the Military authorities to go to the colored people’s churches on Sunday when they wish to make a big haul of pressed* men. The man died afterwards – Briggs attended him.”(Diary of Dr. John Berrien Lindsley, September 20, 1863)* Impressing/impressed: forcing people into military service without notice.
Fisk University 1868
The Fisk Jubilee Singers helped make the nation aware of African American achievement.
From the Merl Eppse Papers
The transformation of America after the end of slavery generated many political cartoons.
Cartoons and photographs are often the beginning of sympathy & understanding … and, eventually, of change.
Images from TSLA Photo Database
Household Slaves at Wessyngton Plantation, Robertson County
State Legislatures came up with an untapped source of free labor: prisoners!
Under the Convict Leasing program, prisoners were “rented out” to coal companies and other employers during the day & returned to their cells at night. The state made a great deal of money
. . . and the prisoners had become slaves again.
*See Douglas A. Blackmon’s eloquent book by that title (Anchor, 2009).
A man could be thrown into jail for years for such minor offenses as stealing a fence rail to heat his house, or a loaf of bread to feed his family.
Photo of Brushy Mountain Prison from Samuel Robert Simpson Papers
By 1889 TCI was contracting out 60% of Tennessee’s prisoners for over $100,000 a year.One worker in ten died every year.
One result of Convict Leasing was that white miners were shut out of earning their traditional livelihood. It was only after miners revolted that Convict Leasing ended and prison reform could occur.
The TSLA photo database, accessible from the main page of our web site and easily searchable by subject, contains thousands of photographs, sketches, and other images.
Here are a few of the many ways:
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)
Ray Perkins Calvert photo, 1899
Sumner County child, 1950
3. “This Honorable Body” in our online Exhibits area showcases the stories of the 14 African American legislators who served in the TN General Assembly in the 19th century.
Tennessee’s 19th century African American legislators worked hard to makethe law more fair for everyone,but after the last of them left office (1888), the “Jim Crow” lawsdisenfranchised African Americans for many generations.
4. The Tennessee Virtual Archive
(TeVA) contains a wealth of
historic images from the
treasures in our collection.
It is accessible from our main web page.
The Rosenwald schools, a vital part of early black education in Tennessee, were funded by a private foundation, along with some contributions from individual donors and state funds.
Bells School, Crockett County
1866 Memphis riots
This Harper’s Weekly cartoon features Hiram Revels (seated right), the first black Senator,* who was elected to Jefferson Davis’s former seat.*Mississippi, 1870-1871
6. One of the most interesting photo collections at TSLA can be found in the Merl Eppse Papers, featuring images of cultural, educational, andrecreational life in Tennessee.cd
The Eppse collection also includes photos of several famous African Americans, including Hattie McDaniel, Louis Armstrong, Marian Anderson, and Jackie Robinson.
8. The Fisk University scrapbook of W.H. Fort Jr. contains many historically valuable images. These photos show Langston Hughes on campus and a Nashville flood in 1926.
Images from TSLA Photo Database
Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights leaders used the Tennessee lunch counter sit-ins as a model for effective protest.
Monroe W. Gooden,
Styles L. Hutchins, &
Samuel A. McElwee,
members of the 45th General Assembly
were the last African Americans to serve in the Tennessee State Legislature in the 19th century.
A.W. Willis Jr., a Memphis businessman & attorney who had worked with the NAACP to desegregate the Memphis city schools, took his seat in the Tennessee General Assembly.
(77 years later)
The Tennessee vote was crucial to ratification of the 19th Amendment, which required approval by the legislatures of 36 states. By early August of 1920 there were still only 35favorable votes.
Did you also know that Tennessee
granted African Americans the vote before
the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870?
On February 25, 1867, the Tennessee
General Assembly gave African Americans
the right to vote and to hold political office.
Governor Brownlow signed the bill
into law the following day.
CEREMONY TO OPEN THE CIVIL RIGHTS ROOM
L-R: Rev. C.T. Vivian, John Seigenthaler, Rev. James Lawson, Diane Nash, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Dr. James Bevel, Dr. Bernard Lafayette. Nashville Public Library, February 15, 2004. Photo by Gary Layda.
Sculptor Roy Butler prepares the Keeble bust for firing.
Visit us soon – we are Tennessee’s treasurehouse!__________________Tennessee State Library & Archives 403 7th Avenue North, Nashville 37243
Look under these catalog headings for interesting primary-source items:
A Special TSLA TreasureZilphia Horton Folk Music Collection: IV-D-2, Ac. No. 1064Mrs. Horton collected these folksongs, songbooks, and song sheets between 1935 and 1956 when she was music director at the Highlander Folk School in Grundy County. The Highlander Folk School was the leading training center for southern labor and civil rights leaders for nearly three decades (1932-1961). Most of the tunes collected by Mrs. Horton were songs of social protest.And we have many other Highlander School materials.
David Halberstam. The Children.
John Lewis and Michael D’Orso. Walking with the Wind:
A Memoir of the Movement.
Howard Zinn. SNCC: the New Abolitionists.
Tennessee Historical Quarterly:
David E. Summer. "The Publisher and the Preacher: Racial Conflict at Vanderbilt University.“ (Spring 1997)
Linda T. Wynn."The Dawning of a New Day: The Nashville Sit-Ins, February 13, 1960-May 10, 1960." (Spring 1991)
Our filmed interview with two Tennessee women who took part in the 1960 sit-ins was webcastfrom the MTSU Satellite & Webcasting Center in November 2009. Go here to watch the interview:
You may be asked to create an account or to fill out a temporary webcast viewing form. This process is free, takes only a few minutes, and does not obligate you to anything.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Martin Luther King, Jr.