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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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Feb 1, 2019

Slavery was so pervasive in Tennessee that the city of Nashville owned slaves. Host Allen Forkum (editor of The Nashville Retrospect newspaper) interviews historian Bill Carey about his book Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls: A History of Slavery in Tennessee. Using his survey of advertisements in Tennessee newspapers, Carey shows how slavery touched many aspect of everyday commerce and law, such as banks, newspapers, factories, courts and even taxpayers. The ads also provide personal details and descriptions of enslaved African-American individuals, and they reveal the cruelty of the human bondage, from the separation of mothers from their children, to the use of young girls as sex slaves. (Segment begins at 04:50)

Nashville purchased 24 slaves in 1830 to work on construction projects for the city government, such as the water works. The next year, two of them, a married couple, escaped. The mayor of Nashville placed the above ad offering a reward for their capture. The ad appeared in the June 25, 1831, National Banner and Nashville Whig. (Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

This ad offering a reward for a runaway slave was placed by slaveholder, and future president, Andrew Jackson in the Oct. 24, 1804, Tennessee Gazette. Jackson offered extra money for the slave to be beaten. (Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

“Fancy girls” were young female slaves sold for sex. This advertisement by slave trader Rees W. Porter, who operated a slave mart in downtown Nashville, appeared in a March 20, 1856, Republican Banner. (Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

Also hear Roots author Alex Haley speak to the Tennessee State Legislature in April 1977. In his speech, samples of which can be heard in this podcast, Haley announced that a new, 12-part TV mini-series was in production, following the success of the record-breaking Roots mini-series. The book and the TV show sparked a surge of interest in genealogical research. In this podcast, genealogist Taneya Koonce discusses her own connection to Roots and the challenges of African-American genealogical research. (Segment begins at 31:00)

(Special thanks to Joel Dark)

Alex Haley (right), author of Roots, speaks to the Tennessee State Legislature on April 5, 1977. Governor Ray Blanton is on the left. (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room, photo by Jack Gunter)

Alex Haley signs autographs at Fisk University as part of a “Welcome Home Alex Haley” event on May 20, 1977. Haley was raised in Henning, Tenn. (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room, photo by Dean Dixon)

Original caption from the May 21, 1977, Nashville Banner: “Keisha Rutland, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Rutland of Nashville, proudly displays Haley’s autograph [on a copy of his book Roots]. (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room, photo by Dean Dixon)

Alex Haley speaks before a crowd of thousands at the Tennessee State University stadium on May 20, 1977, during a “Welcome Home Alex Haley” event. (Image: Nashville Public Library, Nashville Room)

In the 1979 TV mini-series “Roots: The Next Generations,”  the characters Jim and Carrie Warner were a fictionalized version of a real interracial couple in Henning, Tenn. Pictured above are Jim and Carrie Turner, and their sons, George, Hardin, and William. Nashville genealogist Taneya Koonce, who is interviewed in this podcast, researched the family, which you can read about here and here. (Image: Sharon Minor)

And finally, Allen Forkum reviews some of the contents of the February 2019 issue, including a river catching fire in 1824 and Bigfoot sightings in 1979. As part of Black History Month, there are also articles about a new Ku Klux Klan headquartered in Nashville in 1919, and a personal account of life under slavery by a former Nashville slave. (Segment begins at 02:15)



A list of articles relating to this episode that you can find in archive issues of The Nashville Retrospect (archive issues can be ordered by clicking here or on the issue links below):

• “Find Your Roots, Haley Tells Youngsters,” Nashville Banner, May 21, 1977 (The Nashville Retrospect, May 2014)

• “When the City of Nashville Owned Slaves” by Bill Carey, The Nashville Retrospect, August 2018

• “Sale of Negroes,” Nashville Union and American, Jan. 16, 1858; 16 slaves, from 8 months old to 60 years old, for almost $16,000, (The Nashville Retrospect, January 2019)

• “Will be Sold,” Tennessee Gazette and Mero District Advertiser, Feb. 1, 1806 (The Nashville Retrospect, February 2019)

• “Stop the Runaways,” National Banner and Nashville Whig, Feb. 6, 1835 (The Nashville Retrospect, February 2019)

• “Cecelia Chappel, A Nashville Slave Narrative,” The Nashville Retrospect, February 2019

• “Frances Batson, A Nashville Slave Narrative,” The Nashville Retrospect, February 2017

• “Slavery in Tennessee,” National Banner and Nashville Whig, Nov. 7, 1834; about Tennessee choosing not to abolish slavery with its new constitution (The Nashville Retrospect, November 2011)

• “Fort Donelson Falls—Panic In City,” The Nashville Retrospect, February 2012 (excerpts from The Great Panic, a booklet about the fall of Nashville to Federal troops published in 1862)

• “The Executions of Henry and Moses,” Nashville Gazette, Feb. 22, 1852; execution of two slave accused of murder (The Nashville Retrospect, February 2010)

• “Agents of Abolition,” Nashville Union, Dec. 10, 1838; about a suppressed slave revolt in Williamson County (The Nashville Retrospect, December 2018)

• “Caution to owners of Slaves,” Nashville Whig, Jan. 3, 1825; about city laws regulating the hiring of slaves (The Nashville Retrospect, January 2017)


Other related articles and links:

• “Slave Importations in Memphis” (“for sale…direct from Congo” by Nathan Bedford Forrest), Republican Banner, May 1, 1859

• “‘Roots’ Now Landmark In Television History,” Indiana Gazette, Feb. 3, 1977

• “Haley Lauds Growing Up In Henning,” Nashville Banner, April 6, 1977

• “‘Roots’ Search Gains Interest,” The Tennessean, April 10, 1977

• “U.S. historians defend ‘Roots’,” Arizona Daily Star, April 10, 1977

• “Haley Announces ‘Roots’ Sequel With State Aspect,” The Tennessean, April 6, 1977

• “Blacks Must Help Others: Haley,” The Tennessean, May 21, 1977

• "Records, Memories Helping Blacks Build Family Histories," The Tennessean, May 23, 1977

• “Alex Haley Sued For Plagiarism,” The Tennessean, May 26, 1977

• “Alex Haley loses plagiarism case,” Missoulian, Jan. 6, 1979


Bill Carey:

Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls: A History of Slavery in Tennessee, book by Bill Carey

Fortunes, Fiddles and Fried Chicken: A Business History of Nashville, book by Bill Carey

Chancellors, Commodores, & Coeds: A History of Vanderbilt University, book by Bill Carey

TN History for Kids! website


Isaac Franklin:

Retracing Slavery’s Trail of Tears” by Edward Ball at Smithsonian

“Isaac Franklin’s money had a major influence on modern-day Nashville — despite the blood on it” by Betsy Phillips at Nashville Scene

“More About Isaac Franklin” by Betsy Phillips at Nashville Scene

“Isaac Franklin” by Mark Brown at Tennessee Encyclopedia


Black History Month events:

Nashville Conference on African-American History and Culture

"Fort Negley Descendants Project" event at Fort Negley

Nashville Public Library

Fort Negley

The Hermitage



Roots: The Saga of an American Family book by Alex Haley at Amazon

Roots: The Saga of an American Family at Wikipedia

“Roots” 1977 mini-series at Wikipedia

“Roots: The Next Generations” mini-series at Wikipedia

Alex Haley Museum


Taneya Koonce:

“Taneya’s Genealogy Blog” by Taneya Koonce

“Roots and Truth in Genealogy” blog post by Taneya Koonce

“Jim & Carrie of ‘Roots: The Next Generations’” blog post by Taneya Koonce



Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Nashville Chapter

Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society DNA testing DNA testing

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project

The Freedmen’s Bureau Records


Audio excerpts: Alex Haley speaking before the state legislature, April 5, 1977, from the Tennessee State Library and Archives; trailer for Roots (1977) TV mini-series by ABC

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