The Civil Rights Struggle and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues: Another Side of Nashville

There’s one city you absolutely must visit when traveling through the American South on the road to civil rights: Nashville, Tennessee.

Whether you want to explore monuments steeped in history, soak up local culture or enjoy good music, there’s something for everyone.

Nashville is known for its music scene and exciting nightlife that attracts thousands of visitors each year. But if you’re looking to expand your horizons and fill your soul, Music City has plenty to offer in that area, too.

Here we offer you a guide to the most popular sites and hidden gems to discover during your visit to Nashville.

Learn about the influence of African-American music in the United States and beyond

The cultural wing of the Civil Rights Trail is not to be missed, and the National Museum of African American Music will teach you about the culture and influence of black American music around the world.

Far from a stuffy museum, this Nashville institution presents a wide-ranging panel: from the history of RnB to the introduction to gospel, through the little-known role of black music executives in the industry. If you want to learn more about black American music in the city that produced Little Richard and Robert Knight, this museum is a must.

After that you can go to Rep. To visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which includes John Lewis Way, Charley Pride, DeFord Bailey and of course Ray Charles. Don’t miss a visit to the Hatch Show Print, where you can admire a collection of music posters dating back to the 1800s and see them hand-crafted by professionals.

Walk through a university that helped write history

There have been many times in the 20th century when the eyes of the world turned to Nashville, and Fisk University is central to the city’s role in history.

Diane Nash, a prominent student movement leader in Nashville, frequented Fisk, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was also based there. These groups were instrumental in the 1961 Freedom Shootout, when ten students marched from Nashville to Birmingham to protest segregation on public buses, which had been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.

Fisk University is also known for producing the Fisk Jubilee Singers, which popularized black spiritual music outside of African-American communities. Some even believe that it was these musicians who earned Nashville the name “Music City” after performing for Queen Victoria in the 1800s.

You can walk around Fisk University, admire its impressive architecture, and learn about the history by joining one of the campus tours.

Visit Nashville’s iconic building

Nashville was where people in the American South protested restaurant segregation.

Nashville’s FW Woolworth store, a dime store that cost five or ten cents, gained notoriety after one of the first sit-ins was held there, after African-American college students peacefully protested segregation at the restaurant counters.

The Woolworth building on Fifth Avenue is home to a new concept theater this year. The historic building has been transformed into a 750+ seat performance venue by country music artist Chuck Weeks. It provides shows and can also be rented for special events.

Find a museum that holds treasures

Off the beaten path, you’ll find the Jefferson Street Sound Museum, dedicated to Nashville nightlife, and the legendary Jefferson Street African American Cultural Center.

The Jefferson Street Sound Museum is a non-profit, creative space where visitors can explore the history of soul music in which it is steeped. The museum highlights Jefferson Street’s heyday between 1935 and 1965, when the neighborhood was alive with the sounds and sights of Nashville’s African-American community.

The street itself has hosted stars including Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington, both of whom performed in the legendary Blue Room. The neighborhood was also full of nightclubs, dance halls and jazz. Jefferson Street music was influenced by the legendary radio station WLAC, and Jimi Hendrix even called it home before moving to New York.

Jefferson Street can teach you all of this and more, while funding valuable community projects with the money raised.

And of course, enjoy live music!

After a long day of music education, you might want to sample the sounds of Music City, and Nashville will not disappoint when it comes to live music.

Contemporary Nashville has produced amazing black musicians like The New Respects, Yola and Devon Gilfillian. In 2021, Nashvillian Mickey Guyton became the first black solo artist to be nominated for a Grammy in the country category.

The 5 Spot, Rudy’s Jazz Room, Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar all feature a variety of Nashville African American music to help you relax and have fun, head down here for a taste of modern Nashville flavors.

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