Clarksville, Tenn. (TN Tribune)–Austin Peay State University and the Mount Olive Cemetery Historical Preservation Society recently worked together to secure a $10,000 Helper Grant from the Nashville Predators Foundation.

Mount Olive will use the grant money to design and purchase five wayside exhibits and six memorial park benches. Three of the wayside exhibits will be at Mount Olive Cemetery – Clarksville’s largest private African American burial ground – with two memorial park benches at each exhibit. The other two wayside exhibits will be at the U.S. Colored Troops monument at Fort Defiance Civil War Park and Interpretive Center. The money also will help Austin Peay to continue to back preservation efforts with expert faculty and staff volunteers and valuable survey software support.

On Monday, May 9, Austin Peay and Mount Olive representatives journeyed to a Grant Check Presentation Ceremony at Bridgestone Arena – home of the Nashville Predators.

“Mount Olive Cemetery Historical Preservation Society is proud and honored to receive this grant from the Predators Foundation and pledge to use the funds to further our journey of preserving the cemetery and its nationally recognized historical perspective,” said Nick Nicholson, president and executive director of the society. “We will also continue our quest of engagement and education to all of the plight and struggles of those individuals interred in Mount Olive Cemetery.”

The cemetery, established in 1817, houses about 1,350 graves. In recent years, 273 civilians and 32 veterans – including 30 U.S. Colored Troops, one Buffalo Soldier and one WWII soldier – have been identified. The cemetery joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2020. The last burial there was in 1958.

Understanding, valuing African American contributions

One of the exhibits at Mount Olive will give a general history of the cemetery while another will focus on the veteran history and the third will share the civilian stories. The two exhibits at Fort Defiance will examine the history and experiences of the U.S. Colored Troops.

According to the grant application, Austin Peay and Mount Olive representatives hope the wayside exhibits will help area families understand and value the contributions African Americans and the U.S. Colored Troops have made. They also hope to establish Mount Olive Cemetery as a place Austin Peay students can visit to learn about African American history.

“Our organization is so thrilled and excited to receive the Helper Grant from the Predators Foundation,” said Dr. Tyler Nolting, an assistant professor in Austin Peay’s Department of Health and Human Performance who also serves on the Mount Olive board. “These funds will allow us to create engaging and informative wayside exhibits to reflect the unique and important African American history at Mount Olive Cemetery and to place around the U.S. Colored Troops monument we are donating to the City of Clarksville and the Fort Defiance Civil War Park and Interpretive Center.”

Fort Defiance will unveil the 9-foot-tall bronze monument at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 18, in a public ceremony.

Through the 2022 Helper Grant allocation, the Nashville Predators Foundation donated more than $775,000 to Nashville and Middle Tennessee nonprofits, including to the Austin Peay Little Govs Child Learning Center.