Black History Month and Nashville’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

William T. Robinson, Jr
William T. Robinson, Jr.

By William T. Robinson, Jr.

Make no mistake, Black History Month educates, honors, and acknowledges the achievements and accomplishments of people of African descent. Black History Months detail the struggle and perseverance of Blacks throughout this country as well as the world. Here in this country it is expressed in greater detail in an effort to make this country representative of the values and morals that could only make us more inclusive and open to offering justice, acceptance, and opportunities to all citizens.

We know seeking justice and equality has been an uphill fight for African Americans, especially when you look at the disproportionate distribution of wealth as well as systemic racism plaguing people of color. The fight by those seeking to oppress people of color is uncovered during this month and one can better understand why we are feared more than hated. Apparently, fear of our greatness is the impetus that harbors such great animosity and disdain for many African Americans by those who work so diligently to oppress us.

The quest to bring true equality, justice and respect for Blacks can only be brought about by honestly exposing our true history, however uncomfortable it may be for many. It is only when you make an honest effort to study the true history of Blacks in this country and the world that you have a better understanding of the status quo.

Learning the truth will help dismiss the lies and negative stereotypes contributing to false detrimental narratives objectifying people of color. While Black history is history and should be taught throughout the year, this month is an attempt to educate the world on the profound greatness, beauty, and intellect of Blacks.

There are cities like Nashville that have played an indelible role in Black history. Nashville should be proud of the role African Americans and their supporters played in advocating and fighting for civil rights, equality, and racial justice for all Americans. Students from Nashville’s four HBCUs, Black high schools students, churches, pastors, attorneys, community leaders, Black communities and concerned White supporters rallied together to fight inequality and racial injustice. Nashville served as a model for other cities, training students in nonviolent civil disobedience.Nashville’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement is legendary. Ironically, you must go to cities like Memphis, Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and Atlanta to visit museums that adequately and truly honor and give credence to the efforts of people in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement from our city.

Can we honestly say Nashville has paid due diligence to the freedom fighters from TSU whowere kicked out of the university when they put their lives on the line riding on interstate buses throughout a segregated hate inundated South? They were later honored and given honorary degrees, but is that enough for putting their lives on the line to bring about change we all enjoy?

I can think of no other place that has so many people who should be honored than those in Nashville. Yet we don’t have a Civil Rights Museum. You must go to other cities to understand the full extent of Nashville’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. Many Nashvillians feel this is a slap in the face, especially for the heroic icons still living in this city. Many African Americans here are adamant in their feelings that Nashville can do much more to honor the major participants of the Civil Rights Movement.

While it is good that we have the African American Museum being built in Nashville, many Black Nashvillians feel we would be better served to extensively honor and memorialize the legends in our struggle for civil rights and equality first. Better yet, why couldn’t the pending Black museum being built be named the African Museum for Civil Rights and African American Music (food for thought). I am not attempting to dilute the role Nashville played historically by contributing to music, but many African American Nashvillians consider our role in the Civil Rights movement far greater.

Respectfully, I apologize to those courageous participants in Nashville who put their lives on the line—those who were relentless warriors for freedom and equality for all who may feel slighted. No doubt, these crusaders deserve so much more. A room in Nashville’s downtown public library (The Civil Rights Room) and a restaurant recreating the Civil Rights Sit-In lunch counter site is sufficient for some; however, this city could do better when compared to other cities when honoring Nashville’s Civil Rights participants and icons.

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