Tag Archives: Dr. Learotha Williams

TSU professor, students unveil historical marker recognizing victims of Nashville’s slave market

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A historical marker that recognizes victims of the second largest slave port in Tennessee was unveiled downtown Friday thanks to the efforts of a Tennessee State University professor and his students.

Dr. Learotha Williams next to marker. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations).

The marker is located at the corner of 4th Avenue North and Charlotte Avenue.

Preceding the Civil War, the space, which stretched to the city’s Public Square, was the center of slave trade in Nashville.

TSU President Glenda Glover joined state and local officials, historians and members of the community at the unveiling ceremony.

“We gather to honor the memory of hundreds of slaves who helped to build this city and state, laying the foundation for what we have become, one of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas,” said Glover.

Dr. Learotha Williams, an associate professor of history at TSU who spearheaded the erection of the marker, echoed her sentiment when he talked about the slaves and what they endured.

“We acknowledge your pain, we recognize your strength, and we honor your sacrifice,” said Williams.

He said the idea for the marker stemmed from a discussion in one of his classes about the history of Nashville’s slave market, and the trauma inflicted upon countless men, women and children when they were torn from their loved ones.

Williams said his students wanted to know why there wasn’t some type of memorial for the slaves. One student suggested to Williams: “Why don’t you write up a proposal; you can be the one to get it done.”

And so he did, with the help of his students and members of the community. The Tennessee Historical Commission approved the marker in June.

A cross section of city and state officials and residents join TSU President Glenda Glover (8th from left), and TSU history Professor Dr. Learotha Williams (5th from left) for the unveiling of a historic marker honoring the memory of victims of the slave trade. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

Patrick McIntyre, executive director and state historic preservation officer for the Tennessee Historical Commission, attended Friday’s ceremony.

“This is the most significant marker to be erected during my years as director,” he said. “It’s a very serious and painful reminder of an everyday fact of life that existed in Nashville.”

The slave traders that lined the thoroughfare provided prospective buyers reliable access to enslaved blacks whom they bought, sold, or traded for their own use or resale in other areas of the Deep South.

“Nashville was the second largest slave port in the state,” said Williams. “So, if you’re looking at a black person from here that has roots in Tennessee, chances are their ancestors came in through that space.”

TSU history student Meshach Adams said the marker unveiling was a proud moment.

“It means a lot, having this recognition of what happened here, especially in remembrance of our ancestors,” said Adams, who is a senior in one of Williams’s classes. “It’s a beautiful moment.”

TSU senior Shayldeon Brownlee, who is also a student of Williams, said the marker will hopefully cause future generations to reflect on what happened there.

“Some people want to forget, especially in this day and age,” said Brownlee. “But it shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a part of history, it’s a part of us.”

Chakita Patterson is the founder of United Street Tours, which provides African-American history and cultural walking tours in downtown Nashville. She plans to make the marker part of her tour.

“This is so important because a lot of the missing history and the hidden history in Nashville is now being uncovered,” said Patterson. “A lot of people don’t know how significant black history, and black culture is here.”

Dr. Bobby Lovett is a national historian and former TSU history professor. He said African-Americans arrived at Fort Nashborough (a forerunner to the settlement that would become the city of Nashville) in December 1779 with the first European American settlers. Enslaved and free blacks comprised about 26 percent of Nashville’s population by 1860. The sale of slaves ended once the Union occupied Nashville in 1862.

“A historical marker is appropriate for this sacred part of Nashville’s history, which reminds us that lessons of our past can help with understandings of the present, and guide us toward making better decisions in the future,” said Lovett.

To learn about Dr. Learotha Williams’s other endeavors, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/nnhp/index.aspx

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU history professor, students get historical marker erected to remember victims of Nashville’s slave market

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A historical marker that remembers the victims of Nashville’s slave market has been erected downtown due to the efforts of a Tennessee State University professor and his students.

Dr. Learotha Williams

The marker will be unveiled at 12 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, at the corner of 4th Avenue North and Charlotte Avenue.

Preceding the Civil War, the space, which stretches to the city’s Public Square, was the center of slave trade in Nashville. The slave traders that lined the thoroughfare provided prospective buyers reliable access to enslaved blacks whom they bought, sold, or traded for their own use or resale in other areas of the Deep South.

“Nashville was the second largest slave port in the state,” says Dr. Learotha Williams, an associate professor of history at TSU who spearheaded the erection of the marker. “So, if you’re looking at a black person from here that has roots in Tennessee, chances are their ancestors came in through that space.”

Dr. Bobby Lovett is a national historian and former TSU history professor. He says African-Americans arrived at Fort Nashborough (a forerunner to the settlement that would become the city of Nashville) in December 1779 with the first European American settlers. Enslaved and free blacks comprised about 26 percent of Nashville’s population by 1860. The sale of slaves ended once the Union occupied Nashville in 1862.

“A historical marker is appropriate for this sacred part of Nashville’s history, which reminds us that lessons of our past can help with understandings of the present, and guide us toward making better decisions in the future,” says Lovett.

Williams says the idea for the marker stemmed from a discussion in one of his classes about the history of Nashville’s slave market, and the trauma inflicted upon countless of men, women and children when they were torn from their loved ones.

Williams says one of his students asked, “Dr. Williams, why don’t we have a marker or something down there for these people?” He says he honestly didn’t know why. Then the student said: “Why don’t you write up a proposal; you can be the one to get it done.”

And so he did, with the help of some of his students. The Tennessee Historical Commission approved the marker in June.

TSU student Shayldeon Brownlee, a senior in one of Williams’ classes, says the marker will hopefully cause future generations to reflect on what happened there.

“Some people want to forget, especially in this day and age,” says Brownlee. “But it shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a part of history, it’s a part of us.”

To learn about Dr. Learotha Williams’s other endeavors, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/nnhp/index.aspx

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

 

 

TSU President Glenda Glover remembers Linda Brown, key plaintiff in the monumental Brown v. Board of Education case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover shares the sentiment of African American leaders and educators across the country as they mourn the death of Linda Brown, a key plaintiff in the monumental Brown v. Board of Education case.

TSU President Glenda Glover

“Linda Brown will always be a reminder to young people everywhere that there’s no age limit on creating change,” said Glover. “Thrusted into the national spotlight as a little girl, Brown was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education case that ended segregation in American schools. More than 60 years later, Tennessee State University, and other educational institutions across the country, continue to benefit from the sacrifice made by Brown and her family. She is an iconic figure in the Civil Rights Movement and should be celebrated as such, and recognized for her bravery. We have lost an essential part of our nation’s history, but it will never be forgotten.”

Historians say Brown, who died March 25 at the age of 76, and other plaintiffs in the historic U.S. Supreme Court case helped lay some of the groundwork for cases like the one involving Rita Sanders Geier in 1968.

It was the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s announcement of its plans for a Nashville campus that prompted Geier, then just 23 years old, to challenge the action in U.S. District Court. She claimed a full-fledged UT campus would divert state resources from Tennessee State University in Nashville.

The court eventually ordered a settlement that imposed racial goals for all Tennessee colleges. Both sides agreed to replace it with a stipulation agreement–the Geier Consent Decree.

“Rita (Geier) Sanders and the students involved in the struggle were heirs of the courage manifested by Linda Brown … and other countless children who were actors in the effort to break down racial barriers in America’s educational system,” said Dr. Leoratha Williams, an assistant history professor at Tennessee State.

In a recent interview, Geier said the ruling in Brown v Board of Education “changed the landscape completely in terms of educational opportunity,” and she joined Glover and Williams in lauding the bravery of Brown and other young people who endured the psychological trauma of trying to learn in a hostile environment.

“It was a cornerstone ruling that racial segregation in public education was illegal,” said Geier. “It significantly opened the door for higher education because the theories on which we based our higher education suit were founded in the cases that followed Brown in elementary and secondary education.”

Note: featured photo of Linda Brown courtesy of The New York Times

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Tennessee State University hosts panel discussion on history, impact of HBCUs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University hosted a panel discussion Monday night about the history and impact of historically black colleges and universities.

Dr. Learotha Williams, assistant professor of history at TSU, and Dr. Reavis Mitchell, professor of history at Fisk University, participate in panel discussion. (photo by John Cross, TSU Public Relations)

The event in TSU’s Performing Arts Center was sponsored by TSU, Fisk and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Following the discussion, the PBS documentary, “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” was shown to the audience. The documentary first aired nationwide on Feb. 19.

“This documentary shows our purpose, this documentary shows our mission, this documentary shows our need,” TSU President Glenda Glover said during her greetings. “It shows we have risen.”

HBCUs have a history dating back to 1837, but most of them began as Freedmen’s schools after 1864, and grew to some 240 schools, colleges, and universities. Some 119 were eligible for collegiate accreditation by 1929. Today, there are about 100 accredited HBCUs – and their impact is felt nationwide, historians say.

“HBCUs … produce the vast majority of the professional class,” Dr. Learotha Williams, an associate professor of history at TSU and panelist, said before the event. “Doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers — If you search their economic background, you’ll see that in some way or another they were affiliated with an HBCU, either as an undergrad, or via graduate school.”

Mike Krause, THEC’s executive director, said the state is committed to helping Tennessee’s HBCUs reach their goals. He noted that Tennessee is the first state to have an HBCU initiatives director whose main objective is to focus on the needs of HBCUs.

“There’s no way that Tennessee reaches our goals as a state, unless we make sure that HBCUs reach their goals,” Krause said. “We want to make sure that HBCUs succeed.”

Krause added that HBCUs “offer students a special experience,” which Memphis native Marquis Richardson said attracted him to TSU.

TSU freshman Wateasa Freeman, aka “Writer’s Block,” does spoken word before panel discussion. (photo by John Cross, TSU Public Relations)

“It’s more black people, more black faculty, more black administration,” said Richardson, a junior majoring in business. “It’s good learning from African Americans who are knowledgeable in their field. It gives me motivation to do good in my field as well.”

TSU business major Marquis Richardson said Tennessee State’s nationally recognized programs and esteemed alumni attracted him to the university.

When Sydnie Davis was pondering what higher education institution to attend after graduating from high school, the Nashville native concluded she wanted an HBCU experience – a Big Blue one.

“When I got here, I fell in love,” says Davis, a fifth generation TSU Tiger now in her junior year. “I saw what my family had seen the many generations before me. I feel I’ve been able to succeed like no other, and the family atmosphere and love you feel on campus is overwhelmingly positive. HBCUS are one of the last safe havens for African American students.”

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.