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2021 Black History Month

Observing Accomplishments Of Black Americans, Looking Forward To New Music City Museum

The theme for Black History Month 2021 is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity." Each year's theme is set by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, an organization founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter Woodson, the famed African American historian known as the Father of Black History.

BHM Background

Since 1926, during the second week in February, Americans observed contributions to history from African Americans. The week is symbolic in that it was the same week of the birthdays of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and prominent abolitionist movement activist.  

Initially proposed in 1969 by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University, formal celebrations began in 1970. During 1976, U.S. President Gerald Ford supported observing Black History Month across the nation, stating citizens should “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

Black History Month since was adopted by countries across the world.  

New Museum Opening

The National Museum of African American Music was to open in Nashville during last fall, however, COVID-19 pandemic conditions postponed it. At press time, NMAAM was scheduled for a ribbon-cutting Jan. 18 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and opening Jan. 30. 

In 2002, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce members proposed the idea of such a museum to celebrate and preserve the influence African Americans had on music. As the project matured, the scope changed from a local to a national initiative, and simultaneously narrowed its target from music, culture and arts to focus exclusively on music. 

Museum construction initially was slated for Jefferson Street, but in 2015, Nashville city officials announced plans to redevelop the old convention center site, including a prominent location for NMAAM. Since that time, NMAAM developed unique programs and offerings without a physical space. 

The museum's construction eventually started in early 2017.

"As an educational facility, national tourist destination and economic development engine for Middle Tennessee, NMAAM will be a vibrant museum where youth, artists and families will find creative and cultural inspiration," says museum president and CEO Henry Beecher Hicks III. “We've been preparing for this for more than 20 years, but this museum has actually been 400 years in the making. We welcome music lovers from around the world. We also thank the thousands of people who've supported us, as we prepare to celebrate the history of African American music, which truly is the soundtrack of our nation.”

NMAAM’s state-of-the-art performance hall will screen films, host lectures and stage concerts. The library will house classrooms, along with a vital repository of digitally mastered African American music. A boutique café and store also greets visitors. 

NMAAM.org

Tennessee State Museum Black History Month Events:

Note that due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, all of the following events are offered online at no charge.

  1. Historic Black Communities: Origins and Possibilities Part 1; Feb. 4, 6-7:30 p.m. 
    A panel discussion will cover prominent historic Black communities throughout Tennessee, focusing on the communities of Orange Mound in Memphis, Free Hill in Clay County and Black communities in Knoxville. It will include how they were formed, historic events that may have led to the development of the communities, how communities thrived (or didn’t), community culture and its broader cultural impact. They then will present and examine what these communities look like now, whether the culture has survived, and thoughts on how they re-shape the community to reflect the voices and aspirations of those currently living there. The link to the online discussion, presented through WebEx, is offered on the museum's Facebook page and website event calendar. Guests can ask questions during the discussion that will be answered toward the talk's end.
     
  2. Tennessee Storytime: Ella Queen of Jazz; Feb. 5, Noon to 1 p.m.
    Museum curator Brigette Jones reads a special story to celebrate National Singing Day (Feb. 3) and learn about the talented Ella Fitzgerald and her friend. This story time is ideally for parents, grandparents and caregivers with young children at home between the ages 3-6 years. 
     
  3. Lunch and Learn/Tennessee’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities; Feb. 10, 6-7:30 p.m. This session focuses on the history and importance of Tennessee’s HBCUs, their growth, communities they serve, where they are now, current challenges they face and HBCU's futures. The link to the online discussion, presented through WebEx, is offered on the museum's Facebook page and website event calendar. Guests can ask questions during the discussion that will be answered toward the talk's end.
  4. Tennessee Book Club: The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation; Feb. 11, 6-7:30 p.m. 
    Book Club participants will cover The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom by John F. Baker Jr. When John was in the seventh grade, he saw a photograph of four former slaves in his social studies textbook. When he learned that two of them were his grandmother's grandparents, he began the lifelong research project that would become this book, the fruit of 30-plus years of archival and field research and DNA testing spanning 250 years. The hyperlink will be sent to attendees the day of the book club. Contact Mamie Hassell at mamie.hassell@tn.gov.

  5. Reflections: Poets on Black History in Tennessee; Feb. 18, 6-7:30 p.m. 
    This event features local Black poets and writers reading original works associated with or inspired by history. They reflect on Tennessee’s Black history, including historical figures (writers, politicians, leaders, artists), communities and movements. Each writer will speak to how they were influenced by and how their work reflects those who came before them, their challenges and triumphs. The link to the online discussion, presented through WebEx, is offered on the museum's Facebook page and website event calendar. Guests can ask questions during the discussion that will be answered toward the talk's end.

  6. Historic Black Communities: Origins and Possibilities Part 2; Feb. 25, 6-7:30 p.m. 
    The second of this two-part series will focus on the Black communities of Chattanooga, West Tennessee, and the Edgehill district in Nashville. They will look at how they were formed, historic events that may have led to the development of the communities, how the communities thrived (or didn’t), the community culture and its broader cultural impact. They then will discuss what these communities look like now, whether the culture has survived, and thoughts on how they re-shape the community to reflect the voices and aspirations of those currently living there. The link to the online discussion, presented through WebEx, is offered on the museum's Facebook page and website event calendar. Guests can ask questions during the discussion that will be answered toward the talk's end.

Read Autobiography Tina Turner:  My Love Story

My Love Story is an explosive, inspiring story of a singer, songwriter, dancer and actress who dared to break barriers put in her way, victoriously becoming known as the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll." Emphatically showcasing Tina's signature blend of strength, energy, heart and soul, this memoir was considered as enthralling and moving as her greatest hits. That's probably why it was a New York Times bestseller.

The book goes from Tina's youth in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her rise to fame alongside Ike Turner, to her phenomenal success in the 1980s and beyond. She candidly examines her personal history, from her darkest hours to her happiest moments, and everything in-between.

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