A Zeal for Education: The Story of Cora Bristol Nelson

By Leigh Ann Gardner, Interpretive Specialist, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area

One of the missions of the Heritage Center is to tell the stories of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County. We are always discovering new stories from the past about our community and its residents. I recently stumbled across the story of a woman who believed that all children should be educated, regardless of their mental abilities. Cora Bristol Nelson opened a school for “feeble-minded children” (as they were then termed) in her Murfreesboro home in 1905.

1931 Sanborn Map (sheet 25) showing the location of the Bristol Nelson School.

1931 Sanborn Map (sheet 25) showing the location of the Bristol Nelson School.

Born in New York in 1870, Cora Bristol was remarkably well-educated and epitomized the Progressive women of her era. She attended the Boston School of Oratory and studied psychology at Columbia University in the early 1890s. Following her marriage to a man from Tennessee, she moved to Lebanon.

After the birth of her second child, Nelson searched for something additional to do. Full of the zeal for reform that characterized the period, she decided to open a school for children with intellectual disabilities. By 1908, Nelson, her family, and her school had all moved to Murfreesboro, where she remained until her death.

The Bristol Nelson School was housed in this building, which no longer stands. (Courtesy of the Rutherford County Archives.)

The Bristol Nelson School was housed in this building, which no longer stands. Courtesy of the Rutherford County Archives.

At that time, Tennessee had more than 7,000 children labeled as “feeble-minded,” and there was no school for them. Articles praising Nelson’s work appeared in the Atlanta Constitution in 1908 and 1911. The article published on October 11, 1911, called her school “the only school in the southern states for the care and training of backward, nervous and feeble-minded children.” Nelson was asked to address the Southern Medical Association in 1908 and the Southern Sociological Congress about her work with the children and her educational methods. She had what was considered a radical notion at the time–tailoring education to each individual student’s needs and abilities.

This was the story I originally came across in the Atlanta Constitution. It was a later article in the Volta Review, however, that deepened the story of this remarkable woman. The Volta Review was established in 1899 as the journal for the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Photograph of Cora Bristol Nelson from the Volta Review article about her life.

Photograph of Cora Bristol Nelson from the Volta Review article about her life.

The piece on Cora Bristol Nelson, “Chronicle of a Successful Life,” published by Lucy Gray Kendall in January 1939, paints the portrait of a reform-minded woman with wide-ranging interests. Following her marriage, she taught oratory to law students at Cumberland University in Lebanon. Over the years at her Murfreesboro school, she educated children from 23 different states, as well as Canada. (The census records for 1930 and 1940 offer insight into Nelson’s school, as they list the names of her pupils and where they were from.) She was also instrumental in opening similar schools in Jackson, Mississippi, and Charleston, South Carolina. In addition, Nelson served as president of the Murfreesboro Garden Club, the Murfreesboro Woman’s Club, and the Ladies’ Hermitage Association. She was also a member of the Nashville League for the Hard of Hearing (now known as Bridges) and organized similar leagues in Murfreesboro and Chattanooga. She traveled extensively all over the world and was a collector of teapots and antiques. While it is not clear how long she continued teaching, Nelson died in November 1952 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro.

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Tales from the Road

By Kira Duke, Educational Specialist, Teaching with Primary Sources

July was another busy month for our Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program. In the span of two weeks, we completed six workshop days and traveled to Washington, D.C., for our annual TPS national consortium meeting. To kick off the two weeks on the road, we started with a three-day institute focused on World War I.

Planning for the World War I workshop started about a year and half ago when Kelly Wilkerson from the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) and I were chatting one day about topics we wanted to explore after we shifted away from the Civil War. We both were very intrigued by the idea of exploring World War I. Fast forward to summer 2014 when I had the chance to travel to Pall Mall and Jamestown to meet with Deborah York, great-granddaughter of World War I hero Sergeant Alvin C. York, and see the various York-related sites in the area. Immediately, I knew that any institute we did on the topic had to include taking our teachers to see and hear from all of the wonderful people working with the Sergeant Alvin C. York State Park and the Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation.

Our institute kicked off on Monday, July 13th, at Tennessee Tech University. Sixteen teachers from different school districts from all across the state arrived at Derryberry Hall eager to learn. In addition to partnering with TSLA, Sgt. Alvin C. York State Park, and the Sgt. York Patriotic Foundation, we were also joined by Dr. Michael Birdwell from the TTU History Department. Dr. Birdwell served as our content expert for the institute and introduced our group to a wide array of Tennesseans who played significant roles in WWI. As with all of our workshops, the group spent a good bit of time analyzing a variety of primary sources from the Library of Congress collections, as well as items from TSLA.

Teachers created a WWI comic strip during the workshop. Courtesy of TSLA.

Teachers created a WWI comic strip during the workshop. Courtesy of TSLA.

The second day got off to an early start when we loaded everyone up into MTSU vans and headed to Fentress County to visit the York historic sites. Our morning was spent at the state park, where our group toured the farm house where Sgt. York lived after returning from WWI, the general store which serves as a visitor center, and the Bible school that York built in the 1940s. At lunch, we were joined by Andrew Jackson York, son of Sgt. York, who shared with us stories of his family and childhood.

Andrew Jack York joined the group for lunch.  Courtesy of TSLA.

Andrew Jackson York joined the group for lunch. Courtesy of TSLA.

It was during one of Mr. York’s stories that Mother Nature decided to make the day a bit more interesting by bringing some wicked thunderstorms with threats of tornados into the area. We quickly loaded up our group and headed over to the historic York Institute high school in Jamestown to find a sturdy shelter to ride out the storm. Once the storm passed, we walked through the original school building and listened to Michael Birdwell and Deborah York share their vision for the future of the building. After our tour and yet another tornado warning for the area, we headed back to Cookeville and called it a day.

Our final day with the group focused on sharing online resources with the teachers and allowing them time to begin creating lesson plans to use with their students. The group was given a special glimpse into a new program at TTU, the iCube, which incorporates virtual reality. Teachers were able to experience two simulations that are currently under development that can be used to teach WWI. The first is designed around the two-person tanks used in the war, and the second centers on an airplane used in combat. Each of these simulations allows an individual to get a sense of the size of the vehicle and a real sense of the terrain of the battlefield.

Virtual reality--the future of teaching history? Courtesy of TSLA.

Virtual reality–the future of teaching history? Courtesy of TSLA.

The institute was a great way to kick off our marathon of July workshops and meetings. Now, it is time spend a few days in the office and prepare for our next wave of workshops while Tennessee teachers head to the classroom to kick off another school year.

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A Forgotten Monument Campaign

By Antoinette G. van Zelm, Assistant Director, Center for Historic Preservation

Monuments to women are few and far between on the historic landscape. Surprisingly, early in the twentieth century a group of Tennessee women began an initiative to erect a monument to women who had remained loyal to the United States during the Civil War. I made this intriguing discovery while researching the activities of the Woman’s Relief Corps (WRC) in Tennessee. Currently, I am still following leads to learn more about this unique monument campaign, which apparently never came to fruition.

The WRC was the national women’s auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Union veterans organization that wielded significant political power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Founded in 1883, the WRC became a force in its own right, quickly developing into the second-largest women’s organization in the United States (behind the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union). By 1900, the WRC had 118,000 members working through 3000 corps (or local chapters) in 36 states, including Tennessee.

The WRC had gained a foothold in urban areas of Tennessee during the 1880s and 1890s. By 1900, 183 women belonged to nine corps (five white and four black), with the white corps concentrated in East Tennessee and the African American corps located in the cities of Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville. True to the goals of the WRC, Tennessee’s members assisted aged veterans and commemorated Union victory. Though small in number, Tennessee’s WRC women were viewed by national WRC leaders as important representatives of the organization within the former Confederacy.

The proceedings of the WRC's national convention in 1901 listed four African American corps in Tennessee, along with the names and addresses of each corps' president.

The proceedings of the WRC’s national convention in 1901 listed four African American corps for Tennessee, along with the names and addresses of each corps’ president.

In 1896, Tennessee’s Lookout Corps (one of three WRC corps in Chattanooga) proposed to build a monument to loyal women as “a perpetual reminder to all posterity of woman’s devotion to and love for her country.” The women hoped the monument could be placed in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which had just opened the year before as the first Civil War national military park. Local and state GAR leaders supported the idea, but state and national WRC leaders were more hesitant. WRC national president Lizabeth A. Turner believed the initiative would take too much attention away from needy veterans and their families.

A 1918 view of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A 1918 view of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Tennessee women persisted in advocating the monument in honor of loyal women, however, and by 1900 they had received the endorsement of the national WRC. The next year, the “Loyal Woman’s Monument Association,” under the auspices of the Lookout Corps, received a charter from the state of Tennessee. Fascinatingly, the organization had multiple, diverse goals–including the support of scientific endeavors and promotion of the fine arts–but its overriding purpose was “the erection of a monument or monuments to the memory of the loyal women in the war of 1861 to 1865 between the states.” The association, which had both female and male members, had the power to purchase real estate or receive it as a gift. The news of the founding of the Tennessee monument organization made its way into The New York Times, which carried a short blurb in its July 14, 1901, edition.

Several of the white women who served as officers for the WRC in Tennessee were founding members of the the Loyal Woman's Monument Association.

Several of the white women who served as WRC departmental officers in Tennessee (listed here in the proceedings of the WRC’s national convention in 1901) were founding members of the the Loyal Woman’s Monument Association.

My next steps are to discover what the monument association did and how its goals changed between the turn of the century and the Great Depression. According to a 1933 historical sketch of the Tennessee WRC written by the group’s historian, the monument campaign had raised more than $3000, which had been invested in two city lots near the Chattanooga National Cemetery. World War I and the depression had stymied progress on the project, but when the economy improved the Tennessee WRC hoped to build a meeting hall there for the GAR, WRC, and other patriotic groups, a building that would also serve as a memorial.

The entrance to the Chattanooga National Cemetery in about 1902.  Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The entrance to the Chattanooga National Cemetery in about 1902. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Additional research avenues to explore include the relationship between the creation of the Loyal Woman’s Monument Association and the activities of Confederate organizations in Tennessee. In 1895, the United Confederate Veterans had suggested that monuments to Confederate women be erected throughout the southern states. Might this have motivated the Unionist women of Chattanooga to propose their own monument? Additionally, did the white WRC women who spearheaded the monument campaign ever consider reaching out to their African American sisters for assistance?

The existence of the monument association reflected the desire of a group of Tennessee’s Unionist women to honor women’s contributions to the conflict. Turning this goal into a reality proved to be fraught with difficulties, however, as I continue to discover. Taking the historical view and understanding how shaping the public memory of the Civil War has engaged (and divided) citizens for more than a century provides much-needed perspective on today’s discussions about the Civil War memorials in our midst.  

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And You Thought Teachers Took the Summers Off!

By Kira Duke, Education Specialist, Center for Historic Preservation

Most folks think that summer vacation for teachers is a time to kick back, sleep in, and enjoy a two-month vacation. For the vast majority of teachers, however, summer is a time to continue their own learning through the variety of professional development opportunities offered during their “down” time. For TPS-MTSU, we look at summer as a chance to offer some of our most in-depth workshops and as an opportunity to get teachers out to some of the wonderful historic sites in our state.


A great group of educators at our TPS–MTSU Civil War Institute on Reconstruction, with community leaders from the George Clem Multicultural Alliance in front of the George Clem School in the Wesley Heights neighborhood.

During the month of June, we offered two multi-day sessions, one on labor history and the other on Reconstruction. For each of these, our participants were asked to read selected articles on the topic in advance of the workshop. We also incorporated the relatively new TPS Teacher Network into each of these sessions as a way to engage the participants in conversation prior to the workshops and to continue conversations within the groups after the workshops.

In each workshop, we explored some of the wonderful primary sources available from the Library of Congress and discussed how these sources fit into the new, rigorous state social studies standards. These workshops also gave us a chance to highlight some of the excellent lesson plans created by our TPS-MTSU graduate assistants. These included “Fights, Freedom, and Fraud: Voting Rights in the Reconstruction Era,” written by Ethan Morris, “Industrial Revolution,” by Brian Stinson, and “The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire,” by Ashley Armstrong.

The labor history workshop featured guest speaker Dr. Bob Hutton from the University of Tennessee’s History Department. Dr. Hutton addressed labor history through the lens of the Appalachian experience. Rebecca Byrd, a teacher from Sevier County and the teacher-in-residence with the East Tennessee Historical Society, highlighted some of her favorite exhibition items related to East Tennessee’s labor history at the East Tennessee History Center. Bringing together these local stories and resources inspired many of our participants to create lesson activities that would help their students draw connections to their own community’s labor stories.

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The next week our TPS-MTSU crew, Dr. Stacey Graham, Dr. Antoinette van Zelm (who we have drafted into service for many of our Civil War-related events), and I, headed to Greeneville for the final Civil War Summer Institute of the Sesquicentennial period. Our focus was the tumultuous Reconstruction era. Through our advanced readings and Dr. van Zelm’s remarks on the first day, our group was given both a national and state context for the Reconstruction period.

During our second day of the institute, our group visited the Doak House Museum and the Andrew Johnson Museum and Library at Tusculum College, where we met with Dollie Boyd, director of the Department of Museum Program and Studies. Next, our group ventured over to the Wesley Heights neighborhood, where community leaders from the George Clem Multicultural Alliance discussed the history of this African American community, which dates back to the Reconstruction period. We ended the day at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, where our group saw Johnson’s tailor shop, his home, and grave site. We also had the opportunity to vote on Johnson’s impeachment at the visitor center. Our institute concluded with our participants drafting ideas about how they would use primary sources to teach students about the complicated and often contentious issues of the Reconstruction period.

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We thoroughly enjoyed working with these two wonderful groups of educators. Now we are taking a collective breath as we ready ourselves for the next wave of summer workshops. This month, TPS-MTSU will be partnering with the Tennessee State Library and Archives for a multi-day institute on World War I, and we will also be working with Tennessee History Day to offer a series of one-day sessions throughout East Tennessee. So, as you cruise around this summer, be on the lookout for our TPS-MTSU crew as we head to our next summer workshop. Oh, and take a moment to tell your local educators how much you appreciate their dedication to continued learning.

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Who Were the Artisans? Mining Material Culture

Dr. Susan W. Knowles, Digital Humanities Research Fellow, Center for Historic Preservation

When I first began my research on the Tennessee marble industry, I was engaged primarily in architectural history. Architects choose building materials according to durability, appearance, and function. My focus was originally on civic architecture—public buildings and their purpose and symbolism. These buildings are usually attributed to known individuals, such as Alfred Mullett, the U.S. Treasury architect who designed Knoxville’s Custom House and Post Office and who became a national champion of the local marble.

Custom House, Knoxville, Tennessee, circa 1904. Courtesy of  the Library of Congress.

Custom House and Post Office, Knoxville, Tennessee, circa 1904. From the Detroit Publishing Co. Photograph Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Through my research, I followed several individuals in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Tennessee, who had seen the future and gotten involved in the marble business–the venture capitalists of the day—but I could only go so far in the historical record. Much of what has been published is in the geological literature. Having used GIS (a geographic information system) to overlay historic maps onto contemporary geography, I sensed that more could be done on the ground to bring this history to light.

The methodology of historic preservation offered additional avenues. Dr. Carroll Van West and I proposed a survey of extant structures and markers in the cultural landscape. I combed through public records, casting a wide net in order to understand which properties had once been used for marble quarrying or production. I gathered property deeds, wills, and contracts that might be relevant.

I also reached out to the descendants of marble families. Some, like Priscilla Moore in Hawkins County, Jeff and John Craig in Knox and Blount counties, and Harmon Kreis in Knox County, took us to see former quarry lands. They shared stories, documents, ledgers, and photographs still in their hands.

Hobbs Store, Concord, with Jeff Craig.

Hobbs Store, Concord, with Jeff Craig.

With the help of local historians, preservationists, and interested community members, we held community information-gathering days at the East Tennessee History Center, Ijams Nature Center, and Friendsville City Hall. We interviewed people who had once worked for the marble companies or whose relatives had. The various connections began to reveal both specific events and more general effects of the marble industry involving communities, individuals, and neighborhoods. A Tennessee Pink Marble Trail has since been developed for Knoxville.

South Knoxville Marble House.

South Knoxville Marble House.

From my research, I learned that the property deeds of someone who lives on land that was once a quarry might contain references to contiguous properties, lending institutions, wills, and even a lawsuit over a failed partnership between a quarry man and a banker. (The depositions show that they had hoped to attract outside investors and possibly even offer shares to Wall Street.)

Knowing whose hands actually touched the marble leads us more deeply into the history of the marble industry in Tennessee. Recently, I was invited to speak at Belmont Mansion’s 3rd Annual Decorative Arts Symposium. Objects in historic houses are usually thought to furnish evidence of the taste of their inhabitants. But perhaps it was local house builders who decided on similar Tennessee “cedar”-colored mantle pieces out of convenience, since the interiors of Tennessee’s State Capitol (which also featured brown variegated marble) were being sourced in Knoxville and furnished by a Nashville marble company.

Mantels at Belmont Mansion, Nashville, left (courtesy of Belmont Mansion), and the Mabry Hazen House, Knoxville, right

Mantels at Belmont Mansion, Nashville, left (courtesy of Belmont Mansion), and the Mabry Hazen House, Knoxville, right.

More research beckons. Who were the quarry men? The expert stonesetters? The carvers and other artisans who knew how to get the best out of the material? A piece of East Tennessee-made furniture in the Tennessee State Museum collection, signed by  cabinetmaker Jeremiah Bond in Jonesborough, which features a custom-fitted Tennessee “cedar” top, opens the door just a crack wider to finding the answers to these questions. What other piece might he have made, and from whom he did he obtain the finished marble top? Continuing this research at the local level promises exciting answers, as well as encounters with fascinating individuals, both historic and contemporary.

Table by Jeremiah Bond, Jonesborough, 1866, Tennessee State Museum Collection.

Table by Jeremiah Bond, Jonesborough, 1866. Courtesy of the Tennessee State Museum.

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Honoring the Dead, Anchoring the Living: The Unexpected Histories of African American Funeral Homes in Tennessee

By Brad Miller, CHP Graduate Research Assistant

While I was searching for a thesis topic that combined my interests in African American history and the built environment, Dr. Van West suggested that I look at African American funeral homes in Tennessee. The Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) has long partnered with African American communities across the state to interpret their rich pasts, but funeral homes had never been at the center of these studies. I was honestly creeped out by the prospect of studying buildings that solely existed for the care of the dead. Sure, I have always been a fan of historic cemeteries, but they convey a much different, more natural atmosphere. After stubbornly searching for other topics last summer, I wound up back with African American funeral homes and have realized they are keys to one of the most fascinating aspects of the African American experience from Reconstruction to the present.

G.W. Franklin Undertaker in Chattanooga, Tennessee, circa 1890s. One of the many images W.E.B. Du Bois and Thomas J. Calloway used for the

G.W. Franklin, undertaker, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, circa 1890s. One of the many images W.E.B. Du Bois and Thomas J. Calloway used for the “American Negro Exhibit” at the Paris Exposition of 1900. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

African Americans had achieved freedom in the Civil War and were discovering ways to express their newly acquired citizenship. Caring for the dead became one aspect of emerging African American communities that were striving for autonomy with the growth of their own churches, social organizations, and businesses. A modern funeral industry emerged in the 1880s, which replaced the care and burial of the deceased by community-based burial societies. These early professional undertakers embalmed and transported bodies, arranged funeral services, and sold coffins.

Jarnigan & Son Undertakers (now Jarnigan & Sons Mortuary) in Knoxville, Tennessee, circa 1880s-1890s. Courtesy of Walker Library.

Jarnigan & Son Undertakers (now Jarnigan & Sons Mortuary) in Knoxville, Tennessee, circa 1880s-1890s. Courtesy of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, via “Trials and Triumphs: Tennesseans Search for Citizenship, Community, and Opportunity” (www.mtsu.edu/trialsandtriumphs).

As the era of Jim Crow gradually took hold following Reconstruction, death care became a strongly segregated business. African American funeral homes emerged as the center for a particularly racialized death defined by increased racial violence and inadequate resources for health care. The separate customer base provided economic stability, which allowed funeral professionals to invest in their communities and rise up as civic leaders. For example, undertaker Preston Taylor had purchased land for Greenwood Cemetery and Park by 1905 to serve the African American community of Nashville for proper burial and a space for recreation free of racial restrictions. A.G. Gaston ran a funeral home and insurance business in Alabama that helped fund the modern civil rights movement and bail Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., out of jail.

A.N. Johnson Undertaking Co. advertisement in the Nashville Globe, December 21, 1917. The ad emphasizes the growing to need to have all the goods and services under one roof. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A.N. Johnson Undertaking Co. advertisement in the Nashville Globe, December 21, 1917. The ad emphasizes the growing need to have all the goods and services under one roof. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I was able to start identifying and assessing historic African American funeral homes in Tennessee through other projects with the CHP during the school year. I began to understand that these buildings were critical anchors in the community, just like the social, economic, and political leadership of their owners. Funeral homes were typically located near churches (historic centers of the black community), along the border with the white community, and served as hubs of community activity.

1924 Sanborn Map of Murfreesboro, depicting the original location of Scales & Sons Funeral Home (fourth building up from the bottom left).

1924 Sanborn Map of Murfreesboro, depicting the original location of Scales & Sons Funeral Home (fourth building up from the bottom left).

Just down the road from the CHP in Murfreesboro is Scales & Sons Funeral Home, founded by Preston H. Scales in 1916 in the African American business district on South Maple Street off the square. These businesses were physical liaisons with the white-dominated square. Scales & Sons soon moved to East State Street and became a center of the growing African American neighborhood southeast of the square. Preston’s son, Robert, ran the business from this location and later became the city’s first African American city councilman.

Front facade of the current Scales & Sons Funeral Home on East State Street.

Front facade of the current Scales & Sons Funeral Home on East State Street in Murfreesboro.

While working on an African American heritage driving tour in Maury County, I connected with Mrs. Jo Ann McClellan of the Maury County African American Heritage Society. I discovered that there are currently four African American-owned funeral homes in the county. Another, Morton & Sons, is no longer in business but has a particularly interesting past. James M. Morton founded Morton & Sons Funeral Home in 1891 and quickly became a pillar of the community. The business was strategically located next to the First Baptist Church and a congregation full of possible customers. The original building, which mostly remains today, also served as a rallying point for African Americans during the 1946 Columbia race riot.

Left, Mrs. A.J. Morton, Funeral Director and Embalmer (Courtesy of Maury County Archives); right, the Morton & Sons funeral home went out of business in the mid-1990s., and the building was vacant in 2014.

Left, Mrs. A.J. Morton, Funeral Director and Embalmer (Courtesy of Maury County Archives); right, the Morton & Sons funeral home went out of business in the mid-1990s, and the building was vacant in 2014.

V.K. Ryan & Sons Funeral Home is another important Columbia institution, which has served as a hub of social and economic activity since 1938. The Ryan family lived upstairs well into the 1960s, while the first floor served as a space for the funeral business and a gathering place for a local fraternal lodge. The Ryans owned a filling station to the left of the house, where they also operated a café, barber shop, and cab company. The concentration of businesses, which would have doubled as places of daily social interaction, reveals the restrictive racial space in Columbia and the solidarity cultivated by African Americans in physically separate locations.

V.K. Ryan & Sons has remained in the same building since 1939.

V.K. Ryan & Sons has remained in the same building since 1939.

Through my work I have gained a huge respect for African American funeral professionals as men and women who answered the call for both the living and dead members of their communities. Many African American funeral homes across the United States remain in the family, with some businesses spanning over a century. Large international funeral companies and the declining racial divide that once guaranteed a separate customer base have led to the decline of many of these businesses. Funeral homes are often on the margins of preservationists’ minds because they are easily overlooked buildings that have become a natural part of our built environment. Demolition has already begun taking these invaluable historic resources and business anchors of African American communities.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be making my way around Tennessee to capture images of these buildings and connect with business owners and community members. I can be contacted via e-mail at brm4m@mtmail.mtsu.edu if you have any information regarding African American funeral homes in Tennessee or wish to find out more.

See Also:

Historian Suzanne Smith talks about her book To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death (2010), which traces the importance of death and freedom in African American culture.

Homegoings, a PBS documentary.

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