Mayor Indya Kincannon, left, and Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie. Photo by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

The council meeting lasted over five hours but when it was over, a council that had already made history with the election of Indya Kincannon as its second female mayor, the selection of its first African American female vice mayor and a first-time female majority council, made history again — this time they voted to right the wrongs of an urban removal project that began in 1959 and lasted through 1970.

The long-range results of that project destroyed the long-standing Black community in Knoxville to make way for a new infrastructure for downtown.

Led by a strong statement of support by Mayor Kincannon, the council unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging and apologizing for the grave wrongs and also committed to a ten- year project to raise $100 million for the restoration project which was put forth by Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie and backed by over 100 faith leaders and community organizers.

Seventeen of those supporters spoke during a public forum, many of whom had been adversely affected during the urban removal project that destroyed over 2,500 homes, churches and businesses over 50 years ago. They and the faith leaders also presented a statement backing the resolution with signatures of some of the most influential Black leaders in Knoxville.

The project will be led by a task force that will be selected by council members

and the mayor in the coming months.