Historic courthouse

By Rosetta Miller Perry

NASHVILLE, TN — The city of Nashville reportedly has never made hiring Black males a priority, says a couple of Black city employees who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. For this story, we will call one of them John and the other one Paul.

John and Paul believe that all positions, executive level and below metro have always  been elusive. “It” city with an African-American population  – currently at 27 percent and approaching 30 percent according to most recent demographic figures – Nashville, in their opinion, has more than its share of qualified Black males whose expertise, knowledge and experience could be utilized on behalf of the city.

The city is teeming with those talented African Americans working in various sectors of government; however, Paul said African Americans have not been able to break the glass ceiling – even with three mega and multiple prominent Black churches, four HBCUs, and one of the nation’s premier medical college punctuating the Nashville landscape.

The Tennessee Tribune has met with each mayor of this city and questioned each one about their failure or lackluster attempt to hire Black males. The mayors were asked if they’d ignored African Americans males whenever executive, supervisory and other positions of authority needed to be filled.

The Tribune also interviewed many Black men during the course of each administration who believe they could be entrusted to make key decisions, manage resources, delegate authority, and function effectively in any and every branch of government. 

According to recent data, every city administration throughout Nashville’s history has had no problem hiring Black women, beginning with Kitty Smith. In the days of vicious discrimination, it took the courage of Mayor Richard Fulton to hire Kitty Smith as his secretary. She worked in City’s Hall’s basement and stayed on the job for many years. 

With Kitty Smith in mind, the Tribune challenged Nashville’s previous two mayors to move the African Americans from the basement, where Kitty had worked during the days of segregation, to other areas of City Hall. One mayor only smiled. The other complied, the Tribune was told. 

John pointed out that the current stance of not hiring African-American men “makes no sense.” He added: “It is really shameful that Nashvillians who live in the state Capitol don’t realize that throughout history, city government continued to reject Black men in key executive and staff positions.” He also said, “This isn’t something that just happened by accident, it is Nashville’s poorly kept secret to deny Black male employment and watch the family disintegrate.”

This trend’s negative impact is reflected throughout “It City,” Paul surmised, “from major businesses and including NES in this city where an African American is the CEO.” He also said, “Whether people want to accept it or not, there are many young African-Americans males who seldom, if ever, see African Americans with influence and power other than those who are athletes or entertainers on television.”

The Tribune has compiled a list of successful African Americans in private business and working for various corporations, but many of them, Paul pointed out, “must operate out of the spotlight and keep a low profile if they want continued employment.”  

John said nothing has the same impact as someone working in key government positions, “a person whose role and stature is not only evident, but also frequently can be seen, heard or quoted by the local and national media offering insight and having an impact on public policy.”

The Tribune examined staffing and personnel decisions by multiple Nashville mayors and administrations during the Tribune’s history and couldn’t find any year when more than one or two African-American males were hired for any government position. John said one or two African Americans are hired just to fill positions as a reward for campaigning for that respective mayor. 

“I believe none of these positions have ever been held by a white male,” he added. “Therefore, I assume they were created to appease the African Americans community for their vote.”  

The Tribune has conducted numerous interviews over the years of professional African-American men in various fields of endeavor who, according to Paul and John, have similar backgrounds and training that white men have and should be able to hold any position in the city.

There are more African Americans graduating from colleges and getting advanced degrees now than at any time in both Nashville’s and America’s history. “There must be a moratorium on the city hiring wives, children, cousins, friends, until African Americans are hired into our 27 percent of the population,” John said. “Nashville owes African-American males reparations because of denied employment all these years.”   

Paul added, “We want to see African Americans given the respect they deserve and have been historically denied for positions they’re imminently ready to assume. Anything less is demeaning and a slap in the face to our African-American community, the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, and the concepts of equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion that supposedly this city publicly claims to value and support, which I have given too many years of my life toward.”