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Welcome to the official podcast of The Nashville Retrospect, the monthly newspaper devoted to stories from Nashville's past. Editor and host Allen Forkum interviews local historians and people who experienced the city’s history firsthand. He also investigates audio artifacts from area archives and relates fascinating articles from old Nashville newspapers.

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Aug 28, 2018

Violent protests by white supremacists, a school bombing, and courage in the face of racial hatred all helped define 1957, the year Nashville's public schools began desegregation. Host Allen Forkum (editor of The Nashville Retrospect newspaper) talks to Dr. Bobby Lovett about the significance of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and its effect on the civil rights movement in Nashville.

Lajuanda Street Harley, a Glenn School student who was one of the first black first-graders to be integrated, recalls the tumultuous times, along with her 90-year-old mother, Sorena Street. The two also discuss downtown shopping, white vs. black schools, and dealing with racism. Debie Oeser Cox, a first-grader in 1958, recalls her time at Glenn School, as well as race relations and life in North East Nashville.

Former police officer Joe Casey and former news reporter Larry Brinton remember events relating to pro-segregationist protesters and the Hattie Cotton School bombing.

Also hear audio excerpts from the January 1957 hearings before the Tennessee State Legislature on the merits of Governor Frank Clement’s “moderate” segregation plan. (All of the above is part of one segment, which begins at 03:50)

Lajuanda Street (back turned) and Jackie Griffith (right) meet white fellow students on registration day at Glenn School, on Aug. 28, 1957. It was the first day blacks were allowed to register for white schools in Nashville. (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room, photo by Bob Ray)

Original caption from the Sept. 10, 1957, Nashville Banner: “A large rock is hurled at the windshield of a car carrying two Negroes during an unruly demonstration Monday night against desegregation at Fehr School. Arrows show the rock and a soft drink bottle, cocked in the hand of a young boy and ready to be tossed at the vehicle. Five hundred adults, as well as youngsters, many not yet in their teens, tossed debris at passing cars which contained Negroes. Police finally broke up the crowd. No injuries were reported.” (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room, photo by Dale Ernsberger)

On Sept. 9, 1957, large groups of jeering whites gathered outside of Glenn School and other elementary schools to protest black first-graders being integrated into the previously all-white schools. At the far right, Harold Street escorts his daughter Lajuanda (not seen), who thought the crowd was part of a first-day-of-school parade. In front of him, Mary Griffith holds the hands of her daughter, Jacquelyn Faye, and son, Stevie; Mary Griffith had been fired from her job at Pet Milk Company for participating in integration. (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room)

Segregationist and white supremacist John Kasper, of Camden, N.J., speaks to protesters at Glenn School. The Nashville Tennessean reported he called upon his supporters "to boycott the schools, warning them of violence if desegregation continues, urging them to attend his rally last night on the steps of War Memorial auditorium.” At that rally, Kasper would urge the picketing of Hattie Cotton School, which was bombed later that same night. (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room)

Lajuanda Street (left) begins her first day of school at Glenn with an unidentified fellow student. Lajuanda Street Harley’s recollections of that day are featured in this podcast. (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room)

Original caption from the Sept. 10, 1957, Nashville Banner: “East wall of Hattie Cotton School is left in shambles from an early morning dynamite blast. The school, located at 1010 West Greenwood Ave., enrolled one Negro student Monday.” (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room, photo by Rob Ray)

And finally, Allen Forkum briefly reviews some of the contents of the September 2018 issue of The Nashville Retrospect, including: the 1978 robbery of the Country Music Hall of Fame; the 1941 fire at Woolworth downtown; 1868 articles about Market Street drunkenness and velocipedes; and a 1970 advertisement for the famous Nashville stripper Heaven Lee. (Segment begins at 01:25)



A list of articles relating to this episode contained in back issues of The Nashville Retrospect (back issue can be ordered by clicking here):

• “18 Negroes Play On City [Golf] Courses,” Nashville Tennessean, Feb. 14, 1956 (The Nashville Retrospect, February 2010)

• “Parents Corner Supt. Bass At Glenn School As Negro, White Pupils Talk,” Nashville Banner, Aug. 28, 1957 (The Nashville Retrospect, August 2009)

• Photo of pro-segregationist protesters at Jones Elementary School with a United States flag, a Confederate battle flag, and a KKK sign, Nashville Banner, Sept 10, 1957 (The Nashville Retrospect, September 2014)

• See the September 2018 issue of The Nashville Retrospect for other stories referenced on this episode, including: “Blast Wrecks School,” Nashville Tennessean, Sept. 10, 1958; and “School Attendance Off by 25–30 Pct.” Nashville Tennessean, Sept. 10, 1958.


Other related articles:

• “School Bills Clear 1st Hurdle,” Nashville Tennessean, Jan. 16, 1957

• “School Plan Start Upheld,” Nashville Tennessean, Jan. 22, 1957

• “Clement Signs 5 School Bills,” Nashville Tennessean, Jan. 26, 1957

• “Law Held Antagonistic to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling,” Nashville Tennessean, Sept. 7, 1957

• “West–Lawlessness Elements Must Go; Five Quizzed In School Explosion,” Nashville Banner, Sept. 10, 1957

• “Mayor West, Oliver Request U.S. Action Against Agitators Here,” Nashville Banner, Sept. 11, 1957

• “Kasper Undaunted By Two Contempt Convictions,” Nashville Banner, Sept. 11, 1957

• “Police Shift To Tough Policy,” Nashville Tennessean, Sept. 11, 1957


Links relating to this episode:

“Walking into History: The Beginning of School Desegregation in Nashville,” by John Egerton

Dr. Bobby Lovett

The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee: A Narrative History, by Dr. Bobby Lovett

The African-American History of Nashville, Tennessee, 1780–1930: Elites and Dilemmas, by Dr. Bobby Lovett

The Nashville Way: Racial Etiquette and the Struggle for Social Justice in a Southern City, by Dr. Bobby Lovett

“Nashville History” blog by Debie Oeser Cox

Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library


Audio: Excerpts from segregation hearings of January 1957, an audio recording by the Tennessee State Library and Archives

Music: “Near You” by Francis Craig and His Orchestra (Bullet, 1947); “Quiet Outro” by ROZKOL (2018); “The Apotheosis of All Deserts” by ROZKOL (2017); “Covered Wagon Days” by Ted Weems and His Orchestra; and “The Buffalo Rag” by Vess L. Ossman