History | Nashville Public Radio


1896 map; routes highlighted by Nina Cardona / Tennessee State Library and Archives

Say the words “Jim Crow” and “protest” and you probably think of the 1950s and 60s, when lawsuits, boycotts and sit-ins began to chip away at discriminatory rules. But across the nation, the fight against segregation laws actually began as soon as they went into effect. 110 years ago this month, Nashville’s black community took a bold step that made its streetcar boycott one of the most successful of its generation.

Ron Cogswell / Flickr

If there is a Confederate symbol even more controversial in Tennessee than the battle flag, it's Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Many idealize the Confederate general as a brilliant tactician and clever underdog who tricked Union troops — more than once — into defeat. 

Others see nothing to redeem the slave trader-turned-rebel commander. Forrest led the Confederate forces at Fort Pillow, where some 300 surrendering Union soldiers were killed, most of whom were black. He was also an early member of the Ku Klux Klan, and may have been the first Grand Wizard. 

Emil Moffatt/WPLN

Taps will sound at the Middle Tennessee Veterans Cemetery in Nashville later this morning. It’s a song that World War II veteran George Westover knew very well.

Nearly 75 years ago, Westover was a private first class from Wichita, Kansas who played the bugle aboard the USS Tennessee when it was based at Pearl Harbor.

The 14 New Historical Landmarks Nashville's Mayor Is Asking For

Jun 17, 2015

It’s become a tradition for outgoing mayors to preserve some of Nashville’s historic landmarks: Bill Purcell did it, Phil Bredesen did it, and now, Mayor Karl Dean. On Wednesday afternoon, Dean’s plan for 14 new landmarks goes to a public hearing.

James Mooney / Wikimedia Commons

Steve Inskeep, one of NPR's Morning Edition hosts, isn’t a historian: His job is to report on what’s happening now. So it may come as some surprise that his latest book, Jacksonland, focuses on what President Andrew Jackson did roughly 200 years ago to force Native Americans out of the Southeast. But in a recent conversation with WPLN, Inskeep explained that the thinking behind the Trail of Tears continues to echo.

Andrew Rozario / Courtesy of LeQuire Gallery

This Memorial Day marks 30 years since George Paine led the construction of the Vietnam War memorial in downtown Nashville. It includes a statue, time capsule and black granite wall — similar to the national memorial — listing the names of 1,300 Tennessee soldiers killed in Southeast Asia.

TN Photo Services

Updated 4 p.m.

An unexpected surge in business tax collections may go to build a new Tennessee State Museum —in its first ever dedicated home. Governor Bill Haslam proposed using $120 million to get started on a building that’s been mired in the planning stage for years. 

National Archives and Records Administration

On January 8, 1815, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson lead a ragtag group of American soldiers to an unlikely victory in the Battle of New Orleans. Nobody could have known it at the time, but that win propelled Jackson to become the first self-made man in the White House and helped him change the nature of presidential campaigns.

  Jackson was a country boy who grew up poor and fatherless. His mother died during the Revolutionary War, around the same time he was a teenaged prisoner of war. By the time the War of 1812 broke out, he’d managed to become a wealthy frontier lawyer in a brand-new Nashville. He’d even served a brief term as Tennessee’s first Congressman. But even as an officer, Andrew Jackson was still just a militia volunteer, not a member of the regular army.

Courtesy Father Ryan High School

The year 1965 was a strange one for black high school sports in Tennessee. The association governing black teams had folded into the white one, but African-American schools weren’t full members yet. They couldn’t play for the state championship for another year. The games were still segregated, but two coaches weren’t interested in waiting.

The Hermitage

Of all the tokens of appreciation governments sent him after the Battle of New Orleans, a small gold box, about the size of a deck of cards, was one of only five Jackson mentioned in his will. The snuff box was recently returned to Jackson’s home, but for years, it seemed the box might never leave the Hermitage at all.

The engraved box was a high honor bestowed on Jackson by the City of New York. It named him one of the nation’s greatest heroes.

It came with the freedom of the city, which was basically kind of making him a temporary citizen.