Friday, September 21, 2012

Civil Rights Training In Tennessee -- Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know that a center called the Highlander Folk School (now the Highlander Research and Education Center) provided training for some leaders in the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950's. 

The center has moved to another place in Tennessee, but it was originally located in the community of Summerfield, which is between Monteagle and Tracy City.  Among notable leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who received training there are Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.  The training espoused nonviolent ways to effect change.

Sadly, a backlash against the school's role in the movement led to it being closed by the state of Tennessee in 1961.  It did, however, reorganize and move to East Tennessee, where it still operates.  The focus of the school has not been just on the needs of African-Americans, but also Appalachia, labor, and the entire Southern U.S. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

Ragtime hero

Charles Hunter, of Maury County, TN is considered by music historians to be one of the founding fathers of ragtime music.  Ragtime is considered an original Black American art, but Hunter was white and, thus, plays a unique role in the genre.  He was almost totally blind from birth.  He made his living tuning pianos.

Music seems to have been part of the family as his father Jordan was a musician with the Sixth Cavalry during the Civil War, and his uncle  was a bugle man with the First Cavalry, both Confederate units.

Charles taught himself to play the piano.  When he started composing, he chose "rags", which were written in early folk style.  His first number was "Tickled to Death" composed in 1899, followed by "A Tennessee Tantalizer" in 1900.  How about this name for one of this compositions:  "Possum and Taters."  Yep, he's on of us Tennesseans, all right.

Charles was born at some time in the 1870's in Columbia, TN and died in in St. Louis, MO in 1907 from tuberculosis.

Oddly, most of what has been written about him has come from outside of Tennessee, despite the fact that he is clearly a part of Tennessee heritage.

Historical Source:  Hither, Thither, and Yon by Jill K. Garrett

Monday, September 10, 2012

What famous Admiral was born in Tennessee?

Who'd have thought that the landlocked state of Tennessee would have produced on of this country's most famous generals? 

David Glasgow Farragut was born near Knoxville, Tennessee in 1801.  He was appointed as a midshipman in 1810, and the served in the Pacific during the War of 1812.  After, Farragut commanded his first vessel in David Porter's Mosquito Fleet, and he fought pirates in the Gulf and in the Caribbean.  In the Mexican War, he was involved in blockade duty.

Farragut established the naval yard at Mare Island, California, and he was commandant there until 1858.  He was living in Norfolk at the time of Virginia's secession from the Union.  He was a Union sumpathizer, so he moved to the state of New York.  As you can imagine, though, his southern ties aroused suspicion, and he was not given an important assignment in the War Between the States until January 1862.  Then, the Department of the Navy gave him command of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, with orders to ascend the Mississippi River and take on New Orleans.  By April 18, 1862, Farragut's fleet consisted of 17 vessels and a mortar flotilla.  Farragut reached the twin forts of Jackson and St. Philip which were on opposite sides of the Mississippi just south of New Orleans.  He defeated a Confederate flotilla and anchored at New Orleans.  The forts surrendered on April 28, and Union troops entered the city on May 1.

Farragut attempted to reduce Vicksburg, but he failed.   However, he did control the Mississippie between Port Hudson and Vicksburg, and his operations contributed to U.S. Grant's ultimate takeover of the city.

He succeeded in stifling Confederate blockade running int he Gulf of Mexico, except at Mobile, and he attacked that port in 1864, despite the fact that it was defended by two forts, a double row of torpedoes (or mines), and a Confederate flotilla.   He defeated Franklin Buchanan, the leader of the Confederate flotilla.  The forts surrendered shortly afterward, and blockade running ended, though the city did not fall until April 1865.         

Farragut was the first officer in the U.S. navy to receive the ranks of vice admiral and admiral. 


Friday, September 7, 2012

Buried in the Walls of the Capitol Building

The Greek Revival movement had a big impact on American architecture, and its influence is still seen today. One of the founders was architect, William Strickland.  He was born in New Jersey in 1788, and he died in 1854 while working on what is perhaps his greatest building, the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville.  He fell seriously ill while working on the project and asked that he be buried within the walls if he should die before it's completion.  Sure enough, he did pass away and is entombed in a crypt on the north wall. 

Strangely, another person -- Samuel Morgan - is also buried in a crypt in the building.  He was chairman of the building committee for the construction of the capitol.  When he died, he was buried elsewhere, but his family requested that he be moved to a  niche in the east wall of the south portico.

President James K. Polk and Sarah Childress Polk are buried on the grounds.  They had originally been interred at their home, but when the home's future was called into question, they were moved to a garden at the capitol.  

Who knew?  What an interesting state Tennessee is!

(The photo of the Polks' grave was taken by Joseph A. and shared on Flickr.)