Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This month a historic 53rd anniversary for Salemtown, but local historic preservation community ignores us

While the news media is celebrating Historic Nashville, Inc's second annual list of properties endangered and in need of preserving, nobody that I am reading is holding HNI accountable for the properties it has not cited.

One of those unmentioned structures has been standing at 5th and Garfield in Salemtown for 86 years, and yet 53 years ago this month it came very close to being bombed by segregationists who descended on this neighborhood to protest Nashville's attempt to desegregate schools. The stories of mobs in the hundreds running around Salemtown and of little children harassed by white thugs while walking down Garfield toward their appointed classes can be found both here and here.

Fehr is not listed among HNI's historic schools. Moreover, in last year's list of endangered neighborhood schools, HNI made no reference to Fehr, even though they cited another school building that like Fehr was no longer being used as a school. If preservation leaders refuse to mention Fehr, it might as well be invisible to potentially sympathetic audiences.

Nonetheless, in September 1957, weeks before the National Guard and the national news media immortalized the "Little Rock Nine," four of Salemtown's eighteen African American first graders showed up for their first day of school amidst bomb threats, hurled epithets, and at least one school employee assaulted by white mobs. There were no federalized troops around for extra protection.

In spite of Nashville's forgetfulness, these events should be commemorated by preserving, honoring, and repurposing Fehr school for education as a living museum in honor of those first graders. Historic Nashville, Inc is doing local history a disservice by failing to acknowledge the role Fehr school played in the steady American march toward racial equality and justice September 1957.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Byrd, properties listed in the Nashville Nine are nominated by the public. If this historic property is threatened, we encourage you to nominate it for the 2011 Nashville Nine. Properties that played a role in the Civil Rights Movement are extremely significant, therefore, Historic Nashville will definitely look into the situation with Fehr School. Thanks so much for bringing it to our attention!

    We look forward to meeting you at a future HNI program or event and learning more about the historic properties in your neighborhood. For more information, visit our website at; we are also on Facebook.

    Robbie D. Jones
    Historic Nashville, Inc.