The Metro Human Relations Commission is asking Nashville to purchase the historic Morris Memorial Building to honor and share important Black history.
By Mulitple Authors
NASHVILLE, TN — The signatories and partner organizations listed below are endeavoring to realize two long-awaited dreams: the creation of a museum dedicated to Nashville’s African American and civil rights histories and the preservation of the historic Morris Memorial Building.
Often referenced and celebrated as fundamental to Nashville’s development into a welcoming, world-class community, the local civil rights movement and the brave individuals who risked everything have not been adequately memorialized. The city must do more to tell the comprehensive story of the movement within the context of Nashville’s African American history. Our community should take every opportunity to show its pride in how this era shaped the future of Nashville and, ultimately, the nation.
Although information about the important role Black Nashvillians played in the Civil Rights movement is more accessible, stories about their contributions to Music City’s history and development remain elusive or unacknowledged.
A substantial amount of the city’s infrastructure, policies, and social reforms were shaped by African Americans, either in response to their actions and/or to punish/marginalize them. African American culture has played and continues to play a vital role in Nashville’s story, and it is time to honor and memorialize this history.
Support is growing for an African American history museum in Nashville
The Morris Memorial Building opened in 1926 and was named for Elijah Camp Morris, National Baptist Convention USA Inc.’s first president. Born enslaved in Georgia, Morris studied at Nashville Normal and Theological Institute. This five-story building was designed by the prominent, Black-owned architectural firm of McKissack & McKissack and constructed for the National Baptist Convention, an African American Christian denomination.
The Morris Memorial building: “This neoclassical building illustrates the work of Moses McKissack. He, with his brother Calvin, founded McKissack & McKissack, a black architectural firm established in 1918 and one of the first organized and staffed by African Americans in the United States.”
Baptist Sunday School Publishing Board, McKissack & McKissack, Citizens Savings Bank and Trust Company, and Atlanta Insurance Company’s Nashville location were all housed there. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 for its significance in architecture and Black history.
The Metro Human Relations Commission has made a capital request to purchase and rehabilitate the building to hold a civil rights and African American history museum and Metro offices. In tandem with this, a community campaign is coalescing individuals and organizations that agree it is time to canonize African American presence in Nashville before more of it is lost.
This initiative is raising awareness and funding to cover the development and short-term viability of the museum. The Community Foundation has initiated a fund and events are being organized for June 17 and July 15 by Rosedale Collective.
To be clear, the immediate goal is not to decide what exhibits will be in the museum. A committee made up of historians, archivists, and curators is assembling to develop community input processes to be implemented when the funding to create the museum has been raised. The initiative’s focus is providing the optimal environment for the museum to thrive while being accessible and affordable to all.
Morris Memorial building
The signatories look forward to working with organizations, elected officials, government agencies, historians, historically marginalized neighborhoods and communities, academic institutions, houses of worship, and all neighbors who are committed to a just and inclusive Nashville to make this dream a reality.
Here is how to take action and share your support
Let the Mayor (email@example.com) and Council Members (firstname.lastname@example.org) know you support Metro saving the Morris Memorial Building.
Go to the following link to support fundraising efforts for the museum: www.cfmt.org/civilrightshistory.
Attend/support the upcoming events on June 17 and July 15. For more info, visit: www.SavetheMorris.org.
Charles Bone, Sr.
Charles Robert Bone
Chief Public Defender Martesha Johnson Moore
Council Member Angie Henderson
Council Member Bob Mendes
Council Member Brandon Taylor
Council Member Brett Withers
Council Member Burkley Allen
Council Member Courtney Johnston
Council Member Delishia Porterfield
Council Member Emily Benedict
Council Member Erin Evans
Council Member Freddie O’Connell
Council Member Ginny Welsch
Council Member Jeff Syracuse
Council Member Jennifer Gamble
Council Member John Rutherford
Council Member Joy Styles
Council Member Kyontze Toombs
Council Member Russ Pulley
Council Member Sandra Sepulveda
Council Member Sean Parker
Council Member Sharon Hurt
Council Member Zulfat Suara
County Clerk Brenda Wynn
Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry
Dr. Carole Bucy
Dr. Gatluak Thach
Dr. Forrest Harris
Dr. Learotha Williams
Dr. Marisa Richmond
Dr. Phyllis Qualls
Hon. Megan Barry
Hon. Sheila Calloway
Jamel Campbell Gooch
Juvenile Court Clerk Lonnell
Kaki Friskics- Warren
Metro Trustee Erica Gilmore
Pastor Aaron Marble
Pastor Davie Tucker
Rep. Bob Freeman
Rep. Harold Love, Jr.
Rep. Jason Powell
Rep. John Ray Clemmons
Rep. Vincent Dixie
Rev. Venita Lewis
Sen. Charlane Oliver
Sen. Heidi Campbell
Sen. Jeff Yarbro
Tasha French Lemley
Vivian Wilhoite, Davidson
County Property Assessor
Nashville Civil Rights Veterans
American Baptist College
American Muslim Advisory Council
Black Nashville Assembly
Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival
Entrepreneur Latina Leaders of America
Faith and Culture Center
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship
Metro Arts Nashville
Metro Human Relations Commission
Metro Nashville Community
Nashville International Center for Empowerment
Stand Up Nashville
The Equity Alliance
The Nashville Food Project
Tennessee Tribune, LLC
TN Equality Project
TN Justice Center
TN Latin American Chamber of Commerce