Civil Rights Art Project Seeks Local Voices

The Nashville sit-ins were remarkable not only for their success in desegregating lunch counters, but also the well-organized training in nonviolent protest that participants received before hand. Credit Jimmy Ellis, 2/20/1960

The Nashville sit-ins were remarkable not only for their success in desegregating lunch counters, but also the well-organized training in nonviolent protest that participants received before hand. Credit Jimmy Ellis, 2/20/1960

The Metro Arts Commission is hoping for a strong turnout this week at a workshop about Nashville’s Civil Rights history. The next piece of public art is meant to honor the lunch counter sit ins of the 60s, and officials say public input is a key piece of getting it right.

An online survey, a space for comments in the downtown library and the public workshops all ask the same questions: what do you remember of the civil rights movement in Nashville, what images does it bring to mind, and what’s the lasting impact?

The first meeting drew only a handful of people, most of whom weren’t around when the sit-ins occurred. But while Lamar Wilson was too young to participate in those demonstrations, he was one of the first black students to integrate Cumberland High School a few years later.

“My group, we were beyond nonviolence, we were punkish kids. Someone called us a name, there was a fight.”

All of the comments will be passed on to the five sculptors on the Commission’s shortlist. Their design proposals are due in April.

A second and final meeting will be held Tuesday evening from 6 to 7:30pm at the Looby Branch Library, which is named for the lawyer who represented the sit-in participants.

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