Photo courtesy: Tennessee State Museum
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The first celebration of Black History Month dates to Feb. 7, 1926 and a writer-historian named Carter G. Woodson.
Known as the Father of Black History, Woodson first launched Negro History Week, which eventually came to be known as Black History Month, to extend and deepen the study and appreciation of African American history year-round.
Black History Month was an immediate hit in schools and in public spots across the country.
This spirit of contemplation and celebration continues today. At The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, our Give Black, Give Back initiative offers a host of opportunities to study more about the Nashville area’s rich history and to support present-day Black philanthropy, businesses and culture:
— Changemakers Interview Series. The online video series highlights individuals dedicated to furthering the progress of our Black community by uplifting and empowering those they are committed to serving. Subjects include: restaurateur Mrs. Andre Prince Jeffries, owner of hot chicken originator Prince’s Hot Chicken; the late Dr. Paul Kwami, longtime musical director of the renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers, who passed away on Sept. 10, 2022; ; educator Robert Churchwell Jr., whose father, Robert Churchwell Sr., is known as the “Jackie Robinson of Journalism”; Rev. Dr. Kelly Miller Smith Jr., son of Civil Rights leader Rev. Dr. Kelly Smith Sr.; and Mrs. Rosetta Miller Perry, Civil Rights activist and owner-publisher of The Tennessee Tribune newspaper.
— Kia Jarmon and Lisa Swift-Young, Give Black, Give Back initiative co-chairs and philanthropy advisors, will host a Facebook Live, Thursday, February 16 in honor of Black History Month. CFMT and Give Black, Give Back also will be providing additional content for “Kids of All Ages” and Friday Facts about several former CFMT contributors and Board of Directors members who made an impact in our community.
Give Black, Give Back recognizes donors and the variety of ways they give, not only large gifts, but also the volumes of small gifts and collective giving Black families, churches and civic organizations provide that are making a broad impact. For a list of Black-led charitable funds to support, go to https://www.cfmt.org/community-leadership/community-initiative/give-black-give-back/give-black-give-back-funds/
The Nashville area presents a host of opportunities for celebrating Black History Month, both with special events in February and year-round. Highlights include:
— Downtown Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) celebrates its second birthday with the exhibit “This Is Hip Hop,” a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The downtown museum. The exhibit explores the history and evolution of hip-hop genre through the lens of four renowned photographers who have documented hip-hop artists and hip-hop culture throughout the years.
The museum’s Nissan Free Wednesday promotion, which occurs the first Monday of each month, occurs on Wednesday, Feb. 1 to conveniently coincide with the beginning of Black History Month. Admission is free throughout the day. For more information, go to the museum’s website.
— Just blocks away from the museum, one of the most heralded exhibits in the history of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum can now be seen and heard again after a nearly 20-year absence. “Night Train to Nashville,” which was physically featured in a 5,000-square foot exhibition space from March 2005 to December 2005, explored Nashville’s vibrant and pioneering R&B scene that burnished Music City’s worldwide reputation in the post-World War II era from 1945-1970. An album of the same name won the Grammy Award for Best Historical Album in 2004.
Thanks to a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the online exhibit revisits, updates and preserves the museum’s award-winning physical exhibit of the same name. Ray Charles, Arthur Alexander, Ruth Brown, Bobby Hebb, Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Robert Knight and Little Richard are just some of the epic Black performers who emerged from that musical scene, which was centered along then-thriving Jefferson Street and environs in long-defunct nightclubs such as the New Era Club.
The exhibit is now available to access for free on the museum’s website. The Hall will also display a physical “Night Train to Nashville” exhibit in its galleries in January 2024 to mark the 20th anniversary of the original exhibit.
For an extensive listing of events and other things to do, see and experience during Black History Month, go to CFMT initiative NowPlayingNashville.com
About The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
The Community Foundation exists to promote and facilitate giving in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee and beyond. It does this by accepting gifts of any size from anyone at any time and by empowering individuals, families, companies, nonprofits, and communities to respond to needs and opportunities that matter. The Community Foundation works with people who have great hearts, whether or not they have great wealth, to craft solutions that reflect the intentions and goals of their charitable endeavors. For more information, call 615-321-4939 or visit www.cfmt.org.