The Morris Building Photo courtesy of Historic Nashville Inc.

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 ( and Council Members ( know you support Metro saving the Morris Memorial Building.

Go to the following link to support fundraising efforts for the museum:

Attend/support the upcoming events on June 17 and July 15. For more info, visit:

Individual signatories:

King Hollands

Aisha White

Betsy Phillips

Charles Bone, Sr.

Charles Robert Bone

Chief Public Defender Martesha Johnson Moore

Chris Sanders

Cindy Politte

CJ Sentell

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

Courtney Vrablik

Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry

Dr. Carole Bucy

Dr. Gatluak Thach

Dr. Forrest Harris

Dr. Learotha Williams

Dr. Marisa Richmond

Dr. Phyllis Qualls

Erica Perry

Hal Cato

Hon. Megan Barry

Hon. Sheila Calloway

Jamel Campbell Gooch

Jennifer Oldham

Jerome Moore

Jim Gingrich

John Lasiter

Juvenile Court Clerk Lonnell 

Matthews, Jr.

Kaki Friskics- Warren

Kasar Abdulla

Keith Caldwell

Kristen Keely-Dinger

Maryam Abolfazli

Matt Wiltshire

Metro Trustee Erica Gilmore

Michelle Johnson

Mike Smith

Odessa Kelly

Pastor Aaron Marble

Pastor Davie Tucker

Phyllis Hildreth

Ralph Schulz

Raquel Barlow

Renata Soto

Rep. Bob Freeman

Rep. Harold Love, Jr.

Rep. Jason Powell

Rep. John Ray Clemmons

Rep. Vincent Dixie

Rev. Venita Lewis

Rosetta Miller-Perry

Sabina Mohyuddin

Sen. Charlane Oliver

Sen. Heidi Campbell

Sen. Jeff Yarbro

Sharon Kay

Tasha French Lemley

Tequila Johnson

Terry Vo

Timothy Hughes

Tom Negri

Vivian Wilhoite, Davidson 

County Property Assessor

Vanessa Lazon

Wanda Miller-Benson

Yuri Cunza

Group signatories

Nashville Civil Rights Veterans

American Baptist College

American Muslim Advisory Council


Black Nashville Assembly

Community Foundation

Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival

Entrepreneur Latina Leaders of America

Faith and Culture Center

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Humanities Tennessee

Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship

Metro Arts Nashville

Metro Human Relations Commission

Metro Nashville Community 

Oversight Board

Mosaic Changemakers

NAACP Nashville

Nashville International Center for Empowerment

Oasis Center

R.H. Boyd

Rosedale Collective

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