Library’s Civil Rights room preserves Nashville’s history

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Inside the downtown Nashville Public Library, the Civil Rights Room stands as a world renowned archive of how Nashville became one of the centers of non-violent protest, despite violence from people wanting to stop the movement.

“Nashville had a school bombed in 1957 and the same man was responsible for bombing Z. Alexander Looby’s home in 1960,” Library Special Collections Manager Andrea Blackman said. “It is a part of our city’s history.”

Looby was a Nashville attorney who was involved with the Civil Rights movement.

The man responsible for both of the bombings was never convicted.

The Civil Rights Room has historic pictures and artifacts.

“All of the resources are free, so whether you are a third grader wanting to know more about John Lewis, or if you are a scholar working on your dissertation, all the material is here,” Blackman said.

The exhibit also has an educational component for student groups and others to learn more about how the civil rights movement compares to current events. The Civil Rights and a Civil Society Program has had more than 31 sessions and involved more than 1,200 people in a discussion about race in our current society.

“We have these tough conversations about race that plague us and our children,” Blackman said. “We bring groups of people together, whether it be law enforcement, TBI agents, sixth graders or even a group of bankers.”

McKissack Middle Prep students participated in the program as the entry event to their project based learning exercise.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

By the end of the school year, the students will create a smartphone app about Nashville Civil Rights History.

While at the library the students toured the Civil Rights Room and then participated in a group activity where they discussed specific events in Nashville’s history.

“It is really exciting because I think kids at this age take a lot of things for granted and they don’t understand what happened before them,” teacher Kimberly Trotter said. “Even watching certain film clips we talked about and we are reading certain things it actually makes them understand it more.”

She continued, “Without John Lewis who went to American Baptist College we may not have had the march in Selma.”
Blackman said keeping the story of Nashville’s Civil Rights history is even more important as more people move to the city.

“Students marched on Fifth, Sixth and Church Street,” she said. “The library sits on that very site, so it’s amazing to think we have a room full of world history and books and other resource materials that anyone can access.”
The Civil Rights Room is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

On the weekend, it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday.