African American History Foundation
The African American History Foundation is a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote, create and build a museum to serve as a repository for artifacts of local, state, national and international range representing African American culture.
Nashville is a world-renowned center for music of all types – from gospel and jazz, to country and rock. Much of the world’s popular music has deep roots in the African American experience. Likewise, music is at the heart of Black history. Nashville was tagged “Music City” in the early 1900s due in part to the fame of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. However, there is currently no museum in America that offers a comprehensive presentation showing the interplay of African American music, art, and culture. This new institution in Nashville proposes to fill that void – honoring African American culture and the music genres, on a local and national level, that have woven through it in the lives of families over the generations and over the centuries.
Nashville and Tennessee have a rich and vibrant legacy of musical creativity, intellectual discussion, and educational excellence. The presence of the historically Black institutions of Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University is of immense importance. These academic archives relating to music, art, and culture could possibly be shared with the public through a new network and partnerships established by the new museum in Nashville. Nashville is a diverse cultural center of the South, and is often referred to as the “Athens of the South” because of its educational institutions, art and community participation.
In the late 1920s, Charles S. Johnson moved south from New York to Nashville and brought with him many of his friends of the Harlem Renaissance. He later became President of Fisk University in the 1940s. Famous painter Aaron Douglas created a mural for Fisk University in 1930 and later served as a professor of art at Fisk from 1939 to 1966. Today, Nashville is home to more than a dozen different organizations that support Black artists in literary, visual, and performing arts.
The African American culture is vibrant, but not solely because of the arts, gospel, or rhythm and blues, nor the historically black colleges and universities. Our African American culture is also deeply rooted because of the history – the plantations of the South, the Nashville sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, and diversity of modern times.
Nashville was a center of important activity and good work that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. The struggle for civil rights in America has been a part of Tennessee’s history since the founding of the state.
Many of these core ideas came into focus in 2002 under the auspices of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, through the work of a task force named by then Chamber Board Chair Cal Turner, Jr. This “Chamber Feasibility Task Force” conducted a thorough research process and concluded that Nashville needed, among other things, a place for attracting African American conventions and visitors – and a place that people of all cultural backgrounds could experience the extraordinary point of view that only Nashville could offer. It was from this research and discussion process that the African American History Foundation of Nashville, Inc., was created.