History of Tennessee/Printable version

History of Tennessee

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The origin of the state of Tennessee can be directly linked to the Watauga Association. The Watauga Association was a colony made up of an independently governed group of settlers on the waters of the Watauga and Nolichucky. This group of settlers leased the land from the Overhill Cherokee tribe beginning in 1772. However, the Cherokee claim to the land was ultimately disregarded, resulting in conflict. Due to the conflict with the Cherokee, the settlers of the Watauga Association sent a petition to the Provincial Congress of North Carolina, asking to be taken under the protection of North Carolina. In 1776, the Watauga Association was annexed by North Carolina and by 1777 became Washington County and was placed under a county government within the state. Following 19 years as a Washington County, the name was changed to Tennessee, eventually entering the Union and assuming statehood in July of 1796, becoming the 16th state to do so. The original capital of Tennessee was Knoxville, but it has since been changed to Nashville, the most heavily populated city in Tennessee. Tennessee is nicknamed the "volunteer state" due to their contributions and the number of volunteers the state produced to fight in the War of 1812. Like many other American states, the name Tennessee originated from Native American roots. It came from the name of a Cherokee village that was present at the time of European exploration. The name of the village that the name Tennessee derived from was called "Tanasqui". The meaning of the state has been lost over the years, but many believe it could mean "meeting place","winding river", or "river of the great bend". The original spelling of Tennessee is accredited to James Glen, who was the Governor of South Carolina at the time, and referred to the state in his official correspondence in the 1750s.

Watagauga Association Marker

Exploration of Tennessee


Early Exploration


Early exploration of Tennessee would foreshadow future events to come, as the technologically superior Europeans with expansionist ideologies saw an overwhelming opportunity in North America and westward expansion.

Native Americans lived in what is now known as Tennessee for an estimated 12,000 years. Archaeologists have discovered an abundance of artistic and symbolic ornaments scattered throughout the area. Although there is not literature that depicts life before European contact, these archaeological findings point to a rich and prosperous period for the Native Americans which inhabited Tennessee before European contact. In the 1540s, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto led the first expedition into North America arriving in Tampa Bay and traversing into Tennessee. During this early expedition, the explorers came to a village called Tanasi, where the name Tennessee is derived. After these early encounters with the Spanish, the native Chickasaw population in the west and the Cherokee in the east remained largely uncontacted but not undisturbed. The Spanish brought diseases such as smallpox and influenza, killing thousands of native Americans long after the explorers left.

European Contact


The first European pioneers who made contact with Native Americans within Tennessee were traders from South Carolina and Virginia. These settlers and native tribes noticed an opportunity with the abundance of wild game in the area and soon thereafter, hunting parties began to track game within the borders of Tennessee. By 1760, hunters and traders had explored most of Tennessee and throughout the decade permanent settlements began to appear. In 1771 a land survey showed these settlements were trespassing on Cherokee lands and breaking British policy subsequently demanding their removal. The Watauga Association was a byproduct of these settlers who leased the land from the Cherokee and formed a self-governing community along the Watauga River. The association lasted more than four years and served as the first independent community free of British rule and served as a stepping stone for the birth of American Independence.

Becoming Tennessee


The name Tennessee is derived from the word, Tanasqui, the name of a Native American village. The state flag has three white stars which represent the three political divisions of the state at different periods in time. These stars are bound together by a blue circle that symbolizes the three making one. This design was made by Captain LeRoy Reeves, who was an officer in the Tennessee National Guard. The state song is “Tennessee” written by Rev. A. J. Holt. It was first sung on May 1, 1897, at the opening of the Tennessee centennial at Nashville. Although the song was not legally adopted by the legislature, public sentiment has made it the state song.

The Tennessee State Flag

The Western and Eastern frontiers, which stretched from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, had grown in population and economic interest from the 1770s and onward. The dangers associated with boarding native territories and disobeying the crown resulted in the lease of the land from the Cherokees. Six counties were established within the land leased and were all under the jurisdiction of North Carolina from 1777 to 1788. Settlers grew weary of North Carolina's inability to protect them from native attacks. Furthermore, North Carolina was disinterested with the upkeep and expenses of maintaining these settlements and contrastingly the settlers wanted a government to prioritize their primary concerns of safety. The Cumberland pack established a second Eastern frontier and elected a governing body to oversee it. East Tennessee declared for independence, forming a new state called Franklin, under the direction of John Sevier. North Carolina slowly reinserted their present back within Franklin, coupled with territorial disputes with other counties, the state dissolved in 1788. Although the state failed, it showed that settlers of Tennessee were willing to pursue independence demonstrating the validity of their concerns. In 1789, North Carolina ceded the land of Tennessee to the federal government, which named it the Southwest Territory, establishing East, Middle and West Tennessee. These new divisions of Tennessee focused primarily on securing settlers' property and protecting them from native raids. These attacks continued until 1794 when John Seiver, who would become the first governor, led a coalition forcing the natives out of Tennessee. In 1796 with a sufficient population, Tennessee was converted from a territory to a state without a congressional vote.

Tennessee Culture




Tennessee is considered to be one of the best homes for music, as the state is well known for country, rock, and blues styles of music. Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, has become known as the capital of country music around the world. Much of the tourist industry within Tennessee has been built around country music, including the Country Hall of Fame, Belcourt Theatre, and Ryman Auditorium. The Country Music Awards is held annually in June and attracts thousands of country music fans to the city of Nashville.


Coon Hunt (Raccoon Hunting) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1947

Tennesseans have enjoyed partaking in sports since the pioneers. Sports and recreation included shooting matches, hunting, and horse racing. Different parts of Tennessee would partake or excel in certain sports more than others. For example, in the southeastern part of the state, The Great Smokey Mountains offered a preferable place for hiking, horseback riding, and camping. In addition, this region was well suited for hunting, particularly for wild boar, ducks, raccoons, and fishing. For those who preferred hunting smaller animals, they had the option of hunting or capturing muskrats, weasels, squirrels, rabbits, and more. These types of animals were good for providing fur. Northeast of Knoxville, the State Buffalo Springs Game Farm offered a prime spot for hunting birds such as quail and wild turkey. When migrations of waterfowls occurred, they flew over the Mississippi River, giving hunters the perfect opportunity for ducks and geese. For fishing, there were two hatcheries; one in Erwin and one in Flintville. In the mountains' streams, one could find rainbow trout, brook trout, bass, salmon, and catfish in the slower streams located in Cumberland.



According to the 2010 National Census, Tennessee’s population was 6,346,105 as of April 1st, 2010, with an estimated population of 6,770,010 as of July 1st, 2018. In addition, Tennessee had a population density of 153.9 people per square mile according to the 2010 Census.

Regarding ethnical diversity, 78.5% (approximately 5.2 million people) of Tennessee's population are Caucasian, 17% African American, and 5% Hispanic or Latino. Just 2% are of Asian descent, 0.5% being Native American, and 2% from other countries of origin.



Tennessee is located in the southeastern region of the United States, bordering on eight other American states. These states include Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to the south, Kentucky in the north, Virginia in the northeast, North Carolina in the east, Arkansas to the west, and Missouri to the northwest. It is the 36th largest state, with an area of 42,022 square miles. The highest point in the state is Clingmans Dome (6,643 feet), which is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking-only trail in the world. The state's lowest point can be found along the Mississippi river which has an elevation of 178 feet. Tennessee also exhibits many beautiful valleys and coves. These areas hold rich amounts of soil that are essential for fertility in growing crops and other plants. Many of the farms are located in the valleys alongside streams which possess rich soils. Tennessee lacks areas that have leveled land. Most of the Appalachian Mountain Region is too steep for farming and is covered in forests, some not easily able to be reached. Many of these forests have dealt with damage from forest fires.

Map of the USA Highlighting Tennessee

Compared to the other states in the eastern United States, Tennessee has the most diverse landscape. The majority of the state of Tennessee is covered in mountains and hills. The largest of these mountain ranges being the Cumberland mountains which essentially divide the state into two separate regions, East Tennessee and West Tennessee.



As a whole, the state of Tennessee is extremely cultivatable. Due to the natural division between the two main sides of the state, the east and west each have unique soil compositions. In the eastern part of the state, the soil has uncommon proportions of dissolved lime with nitrate of lime mixed in, making East Tennessee extremely fertile. West Tennessee is equally as fertile, however, the soil has extremely specific strata. The first layer is generally made up of loamy soil, or a mixture of clay and sand. This layer is followed by yellow clay, then a mixture of red clay and red sand. Finally, at the lowest layer, there is white sand.

The state also has the greatest variety of mineral resources of any other state, the most significant is bauxite barite, clay, copper, coal, marble, iron, zinc, and phosphate.



An important geographical aspect of Tennessee is the extensive networks of waterways all over the state. The most significant of these is the Tennessee River which spreads throughout the state and has been a hub for the transportation of goods within Tennessee from as early as 1700. The Tennessee River also allowed for the transportation of goods and people out of the state and into other states such as Alabama. Over time the river has also allowed for much easier transport to the Gulf of Mexico. Another major river that exists within the state is the Cumberland River, which has also been a major outlet for commerce in Tennessee.

Troop Transport Fleet on the Tennessee River



Tennessee is home to over 9000 caves which have seen many different uses over the years. The caves were first used for mining, mainly the mining of saltpetre. The next industrial use for the caves was for the purpose of creating moonshine whiskey during the prohibition. The caves are now used as a tourist attraction, in which tours will walk and explore through.



Tennessee’s geographic location plays a significant role because it is centrally located. This has helped to create a strong agricultural and manufacturing economy in the past and present. During modern times, the state's centralized location makes it a strong economic centre for agriculture, manufacturing, and logistics due to easy access to various methods of shipping products, including road, rail, and water. In fact, the multinational courier company FedEx Corporation is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.

The earliest communities in east Tennessee settled near streams, creeks, and rivers in both the Cherokee period and the 18th century European settlement period. Many Tennessean pioneers were farmers who produced many of their own goods. The early settlers made cloth and yarn using a spinning wheel, and fabricated farming tools and furniture. Additionally, they used processed hides to make clothing. Most of the early industrial activity took place in towns; Knoxville produced cotton, leather goods, and flour. The South’s first cotton mill was established in the early 1790s near Nashville, and Memphis became the nation's largest cottonseed processor.



The state has an ideal climate for crop growth. The eastern region consists of hills and mountains. The west contains raw crops, and fertile rolling land is found in the middle. Corn and soybeans are Tennessee's primary crops. In addition, their tobacco production ranks third in the United States. 80 percent of the land is used for agriculture, including forestry, with the average farm size being 138 acres.

A Farmer Plowing his Fields in the Tennessee Valley, 1930s



Tennessee is also the home to a large area of over 14 million acres of forest that accounts for just over half of the state. Between the early 1950s and 2000, there was a 400% increase in forestland that is classified as hardwoods. Although the timber industry continues to increase the value of forest products in the economy from 18.2 billion to 21.7 billion, the share of the state's economic contribution dropped from 9.8% to 6.6%. Factors such as urbanization and population growth are having a significant impact on the industry. Private landowners owned just 37% of forest land in 2002, which is less than half of what it was fifty years earlier. Tennessee’s Forests have an abundant number of trees with over 150 different species followed by possessing many kinds of soil. When settlers first discovered Tennessee it was originally covered in 26-27 million acres of forests. The only things that weren’t inhabited by forests were mountain tops, mountain sides, swamps, and the little amount of land that had been cleared by the early settlers and Indians. The trees inside these forests grew to be very large. Short leaf pine can grow up to 100 feet high and 12 feet in circumference. Yellow poplar can grow up to 150 feet and 30 feet around. This made everyone in Tennessee at the time “forest people” as majority of all settlements were in forests. This caused for a very lonely time of living as many people lived alone in the woods. Typically, women would go into the woods and search for nuts and berries for food, also different coloured mosses for dyes. Herbs, roots and different tree barks were found for the intent to make medicines.

A Skidder Owned by the Little River Lumber Company in Little River, Tennessee

Automobile and Parts Manufacturing


The centralized location of the Tennessee Valley made it an ideal location for manufacturing. In the 1990s, the automobile industry took off in the state with the opening of Nissan and Saturn plants near Nashville and a Corvette plant just north over the state border in Kentucky. In 1998, car and truck assembly contributed to nearly 20% of all manufacturing in the state. Tennessee was the third largest auto producer in the nation despite it only being a part of the state's economy for fifteen years. The automobile industry continues to thrive in the state supplying 160,000 jobs per year and providing $6.5 billion in salaries.

Tariffs as a Potential Danger


The US administration has proposed tariffs on imported automobile parts which would have a significant impact on the state's primary automobile company Nissan, which is based out of Japan so many parts for their vehicles are imported. With the state producing 6.7% of all vehicles in the US, automobile companies have expressed dislike for the proposed tariffs as it will lower their profits. In addition, rewarding employees with bonuses and raises will become much more difficult. Lastly, not being able to employ as many people would have negative implications for the state's economic well being.

Music in Tennessee


Political Implications


Music in Tennessee played a significant role in modelling the relationship between white and black Americans, ultimately transforming the state’s political landscape. Author Mark Johnson stated that when settlers first contacted Africans, they remarked that Africans possessed a natural musical ability and made better music than all other races. In later years, Thomas Jefferson expanded on this idea by saying that when it comes to music, blacks are more generally gifted than whites, having more accurate ears for tune and time. Consequently, white politicians saw an opportunity in employing African American musicians. In an effort to attract key votes, white southern politicians hired black musicians to perform and campaign on their behalf. Through this, African American musicians provided better access to black audiences, therefore promoting greater opportunity for white political figures and organizations.

William Christopher Handy, African American Musician

Social Implications


While this music played a significant role in shaping Tennessee’s political landscape, its social implications were even greater. It allowed black musicians to manipulate the white southerner’s stereotypes of African Americans, thus more effectively resisting racial oppression in Tennessee. African American musician William Christopher Handy was among the most noteworthy individuals to promote music as a gateway for social justice and racial equality. While he used his music to assist white politicians in gaining political influence, he mainly used it as an opportunity to obtain power for himself and his entire race. By listening to this music, many white Tennesseans began characterizing the African American people as being joyful, fun-loving individuals, therefore lessening the destructive stigmas white Americans attributed towards African American Tennesseans.

Economical Implications


Through this evolving predisposition, white Tennesseans started to recognize the monetary value in African American musicians. White slave masters coveted the entertainment value of black musicians, hiring them out to other white masters. It became commonplace for black musicians to perform at white parties in early 20th century Tennessee. To demonstrate this idea, in 1925, the Ku Klux Klan attempted to host a black band at one of their rallies. However, for the sake of embracing music as a form of resistance to racial oppression, the African American band refused to perform.

Music as an Outlet


Many white Tennesseans capitalized on African American music to satisfy corporate greed and reinforce political agendas. Still, black Tennesseans were able to benefit from it as well. African Americans used music as an opportunity for self-expression. In addition, African slaves used music to make their work more endurable while also reinvigorating their African culture in the new world. Furthermore, they used music as a form of safe communication. Slaves would express various ideas and emotions in the form of song, ultimately disguising messages that could have had dangerous implications if realized by their white masters. Using music and song as a second language, black Tennesseans were able to more efficiently facility group solidarity in a time of oppression and intense racial disparity.

Later in 20th century Tennessean history, black musical culture and community became increasingly important in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. With a centralized focus on the black musical community, African American disc jockey Nathaniel D. Williams played a significant role in communicating the civil rights of black Memphians. Furthermore, Williams expressed that historically speaking, singing had been the only effective means of communication at the disposal of black Tennesseans. As seen throughout history, African American music played a significant role in transforming the political and social landscape of Tennessee.

Conflict with the Native Americans


Soon after Tennessee became a state, a conflict started with the Native Americans tribes that they were sharing the land with. The main groups that were living on the land at the time were the Creek, the Chickasaw, and the Cherokee. Much of the conflict that was occurring was over the property of the land, as many of the citizens were becoming property hungry. Eventually, the Natives were forced off the land and had to travel to a designated "Indian Territory". To enforce this, the Indian Removal Act was established by President Andrew Jackson, the former first senator of Tennessee. This act forced all natives living east of the Mississippi River to move west of it. This resulted in around 100,000 Native Americans walking west on what is now called "The Trail of Tears". The trail is 5043 miles long and runs over nine states.

The War of 1812

Felix Grundy, Tennessee Congressman and Former Attorney General of the United States

War of 1812 showed how capable the relatively new state of Tennessee was, politically and militarily. The War of 1812 was a conflict between the United States and Great Britain. The United States and Great Britain had experienced mounting tensions since the American revolutionary war. British ships would stop American ships at sea, search them and sometimes kidnap sailors and force them into their navy. Additionally, many Americans felt the British were encouraging uprisings by Native Americans. There was a particular concern in the upper Mississippi Valley, where a Shawnee leader named Tecumseh was trying to organize the tribes in a joint resistance against all white settlers. Many Americans, including Tennesseans, saw this as the result of British provocation. In June of 1812, President James Madison asked Congress for a declaration of war. All of Tennessee’s representatives voted for the motion. Tennessean Congressman Felix Grundy is seen as one of the main influences in Congress’ decision to declare war on Britain.

Since the majority of the battles in the War of 1812 were fought along the Canadian-American border, Tennessee's involvement in most of these battles was extremely limited. However, by 1813, President James Madison called upon Andrew Jackson and the state of Tennessee to protect the lower Mississippi region. Large quantities of Tennessean men willingly volunteered, earning Tennessee the nickname, “The Volunteer State”.

Andrew Jackson, first Senator of Tennessee and former US President

The American Civil War


On June 8, 1861, the state of Tennessee ratified a resolution of independence with a vote of over 105,000 to 47,000, allowing Tennessee to become the last state to secede from the Union and join the New Confederacy. On May 7, 1861, Tennessee entered into a military league with the Confederate government, showing the state’s full commitment to aiding the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

Tensions grew as the grand divisions within Tennessee were politically divided as West and Middle Tennessee supported the Confederates and East Tennessee supported the Union. Tennessee provided an estimated 150,000 soldiers to the Confederacy, second only to Virginia, and 31,000 Union soldiers, more than all of the confederate states combined. Furthermore, this is not including Andrew Jackson's 20,000 unionist militia or men that enlisted out of state. Tennessee’s sheer number of men able to fight compared to other seceding states. The Mississippi river's neutral location and the agricultural resources mainly in Middle Tennessee, made the state of utmost importance for the Confederacy to maintain power and for the Union to take it away.

Tennessee was extremely important strategically for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The state's abundance of natural resources was one of the primary reasons why it was so important. Lower Middle Tennessee, in particular, possessed an abundance of extremely fertile farmland, essential for feeding armies all over the country.

Along the Cumberland River, the Confederacy situated its most important gunpowder mills, an invaluable resource in times of war. The city of Memphis was also the Confederacy’s most important centre for war production, making Tennessee one of the Union’s principal targets.

The second most battles in the Civil War would occur in Tennessee. Starting with the Battle of Mill Springs in 1862 and ending with the battle of Nashville in 1864, thereafter shifting the main focus of the fighting to Georgia. Fighting large battles within Tennessee had ended and left Middle Tennessee ruin.

Although confederate sentiment was still alive in these regions, open support was dangerous. East and Middle Tennessee were occupied in 1863 by Federals and the damage was devastating not only from battles, but from thousands of soldiers residing in the state, as lawlessness was present during the war. This massive number of soldiers supplied and having the second most battles within its borders meant many men did not return home and the few that did went home to an unrecognizable state. This makes it clear why Tennessee was in ruins after the war and why it would take years for the state to overcome the burdens of the Civil War.

World War Two


Nearly a century after the American Civil War concluded the state of Tennessee played a massive role, if not the deciding role in World War 2. Oak Ridge, Tennessee is known as the “secret city” because many of the citizens living there, and elsewhere in the country, did not actually know what was occurring there at the time of the war. The reason for the secrecy is because it was the location where the Manhattan Project was being developed by American, British and Canadian scientists. The Manhattan Project was the development of the first atomic bomb that the world had ever seen. The first of the two bombs developed dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, and the second was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. The war finally came to an end with Japan surrendering on August 15, 1945. These bombs remain to be the only two nuclear bombs ever used in war.

Tennessee Disasters


Tennessee has gone through many disasters including natural, technological, and societal disasters. Some of the natural disasters include Droughts and severe heat waves, earthquakes, wild wind fires, slow rising flash floods, tornadoes and straight-line winds, and winter storms. One example of a natural disaster would be the drought of 1930 to 1931 Some of the technological disasters the Tennessee faced are explosions, structure fires, mining quarry disasters, structural failures, airplane crashes, highway accidents, railroad accidents, river boat accidents. An example of a technological disaster would be Jellico railroad yard explosion. Some of the societal disasters that Tennessee had were, labour wars, strikes, and economical disasters, race riots and radical violence, and bloody family feuds and political conflicts. An example of a societal disaster would be the Memphis sanitation worker strike.

Indigenous "Tennessee" (to 1800)

Indigenous Tennessee


Prior to European settlement in Tennessee in 1541, the land was known by Indigenous tribes as the "Territory South of the River Ohio". This point in time can be referred to as "Indigenous Tennessee."

The Paleoindians

The Bering Strait Land Bridge connecting Russia to Alaska

Archeological evidence suggests that around 13,000 years ago, the Paleoindians crossed over the Bering Strait via a land bridge that connected Russia to North America. These early ancestors reached the fertile woodland and prairies of the Territory South of the River Ohio in small family groups of 25-50 individuals. Their movement was based on the movement of the animals they hunted, such as mammoth and giant bison, and they used flint stone to fashion tools and weapons for hunting.

Indigenous Tribes in Tennessee

Native Americans hunting bison c. 1839

The Cherokee Tribe


The Cherokee dwelled in the valley of East Tennessee, and were known by white settlers and other tribes as being cruel warriors with an efficient political organization. Since women had the most power and independence in the tribe, chiefs were elected by the matrons. Being an Iroquois speaking people, they were one of five tribes to establish the Iroquois Confederacy in 1570, which was created to bring peace and unification amongst the tribes. Although the Cherokee were a powerful tribe, by the 1750s their population had significantly declined due to disease and conflict brought by the English and French settlers.

The Muskhogean Tribes


The Muskhogean race is comprised of many tribes, three of which are the Chickasaw, Creek, and Koasati, all of whom occupied parts of Tennessee. Being sedentary, they occupied villages where women were farmers and gatherers of squash, beans, and corn, while men were sent off to hunt. The Creek Tribe in particular had many conflicts with the Cherokee causing the Creek-Cherokee War, a four decade long cycle of revenge warfare. Alternatively, the Chickasaw were often at war with the Choctaw tribe who occupied the Mississippi River Valley area and, towards the end of the 18th century, they alternated between being allied with and being at war with both the British and French.

The Quapaw Tribe


The Quapaw Tribe, belonging to the Dhegian-Siouan speaking people, were believed to have migrated down the Ohio River Valley around 1200 CE, although this is widely debated. Due to their migration patterns, other tribes and eventually the French called them “Akansea” or “Akansa” meaning “land of the downriver people." With a small population of no more than 6,000 people, this community built houses containing multiple families, and were mostly farmers and gatherers of corn, maize, beans, and squash. They also created canals and used nets for easy access to fish. The Quapaw were a creative people, often making pottery and elaborate outfits for ceremonial purposes.

The Shawnee Tribe

Tecumseh, a war chief of the Shawnee Tribe, saving prisoners during the War of 1812

This Algonquin-speaking tribe were intelligent, sedentary farmers of maize and rice who made use of advanced tools such as spades and hoes. As one of the first tribes to come in contact with white settlers, they were friendly with the French but at war with the British. Although they lacked tribal organization, they were advanced in art and able to make soft clothing, had many legends and myths, and documented their lives through picture writing.

The Yuchi Tribe


Discovered during the Spanish de Soto expedition of 1539-1543, the Yuchi tribe was a Uchean speaking tribe, a distinct language unrelated to the other tribes. They had a relatively small population of around 5,000 individuals. This tribe settled in permanent towns with women farming corn, squash, and beans, while men hunted elk, bear, and deer. By 1730, only 130 Yuchi men were recorded in Tennessee as they had been forced to migrate due to ongoing wars with the Cherokee.

Rituals and Practices

The peace pipe was used during treaties amongst tribes

From the beginning, Native Americans have used myths, stories, and legends to communicate their respect and wisdom for animals and nature. One of the most celebrated rituals practiced by all Native Americans is the Green Corn Ceremony, a time for thanksgiving and renewal, which coincides with the ripening of the autumn crop. Tobacco is a plant with many ritualistic purposes in Native American culture. The smoke is believed to connect this world with the supernatural, making tobacco sacred. It was often used in agreements between tribes as offerings, payments, or to show respect. It was also used medicinally in healing and curing, as well as to suppress hunger.

Indigenous Economy


Agriculture & The Agri-Economy


The economy and trade of the Indigenous people of the land that would become the state of Tennessee is unique. Since many of the local tribes descended from Mississippian culture, they were simultaneously an agrarian society, and a hunter-gatherer society. This includes the Muscogee, Chickasaw , Choctaw, and Cherokee tribes. Over the next few centuries, the hunter-gatherer economy shifted from seasonal base camps to more dense populations in semi-permanent encampments on prime river-ine sites. They primarily hunted deer, bear and turkey using the atlatl (a type of throwing stick) to propel their spears with great force. The more drastic dietary changes came with the large-scale gathering of fruits and nuts and the consumption of fish, mussels, snails and turtles. This implies that a fair portion of their economic power would have been involved in the trade of food and animal products, such as hides, furs and other food products and by-products.

A Modern Cherokee Cabin on the Qualla Reservation, North Carolina.

These tribes were also matrilineal by nature, meaning that they placed great importance on a woman’s role in her tribe. With this in mind however, tribes still held a system of basic gender roles. Women were responsible for the farms and agrarian life, this included making the tools they would implement in their farming techniques. They also supplemented the trading of crops with handicrafts such as woven baskets and pottery. These products would play a very important role in trade, as these goods bolstered the local economy, allowing the tribes to exchange resources and gather what supplies they might need, even if they came from abroad. Trading within the tribes was a fairly common occurrence, evidence of this can be seen in several European goods that were traded from tribes near the Atlantic and Gulf coasts into Tennessee, some time during the Protohistoric Period. As Europeans progressed further into North America, and the “white man’s” presence was becoming increasingly profound, the local tribes opened up their trading with the British, French and Spanish that frequented the area. New goods, such as metal tools, textiles, and firearms were integrated into the economy, and quickly became regarded as luxury items, highly prized by the Indigenous people of Tennessee. Soon, the English colonists of Carolina had built up a near-monopoly over trade with the Cherokee, Creeks, and many other tribes stretching as far as the Mississippi. However, this monopoly by the big merchants of Charleston would not last forever. In the end, the debate over how trade should be conducted would lead to the end of proprietary government and its associated dominance over trade with the Cherokee, and the regulatory system would return. In the beginning of the 1700s, until roughly 1750, the natives either took their goods to Savannah Town, at the falls of the Savannah River, or exchanged their goods with the traders in established posts at Cherokee towns.



Another portion of the economy that saw a heightened emergence upon arrival of the European settlers was the slave trade. Many of the local tribes, primarily the Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw, began to ally themselves with either the French or the British, as the Spanish began to cede from the area.

The Cherokees themselves found themselves forced to move, in part due to the increasing pressure from tribes on both the east and north who, armed with guns and weapons, had begun taking Native slaves for English traders in South Carolina and Virginia. These slaves were captives of war and raids, and though traditionally held no value to the tribes, gained economic value as the British began to purchase them. To the English, the bounty and plenty of North America was hampered only by the lack of labor to work the land, and these captive warriors provided a cheap form of knowledgeable labor. One of the largest contributors to this purchase of Native slaves was the Cherokee by the British. Evidence shows that the Cherokee warriors began selling slaves to the British in the early 17th Century, and would become their steadfast allies in their fight with the Tuscaroras, and in the Yamassee War soon after. Other tribes such as the Chickasaw also took part in slave trade raiding their enemies, the Choctaw, and giving themselves more control over prized hunting lands. The capture and selling of slaves would help these tribes gain resources and other items to aid in their survival.

Admission to the Union


Tennessee and The Constitution


The admission of Tennessee into the Union marked Tennessee’s shift from a territory to a state and marked significant changes for the Indigenous nations who lived in the region. In 1789, North Carolina ceded its Western territory to the United States, which set the region on the path to statehood. Tennessee was admitted on June 1, 1796 as the sixteenth state in the United States. In the state of Tennessee, Knoxville became the first capital city, John Sevier became the first governor and Andrew Jackson became the first congressman. This new statehood meant the creation and adoption of the Constitution of Tennessee and integration into the rest of the United States. The Constitution of Tennessee was created in 1796 and was comprised of eleven articles which outlined the structure of the government, the government institutions and the powers and limitations that could be exercised by the government. The Constitution also outlined the rights of the state’s citizens, although it is evident that the constitution did not apply to all. Article III, Section I outlines who is able to vote: “Every freeman of the age of twenty-one and upwards, possessing a freehold in the county wherin he may vote…”(Swindler, Chronology and Documentary Handbook of the State of Tennessee. When Tennessee was first admitted, inequalities that existed previous to statehood were now entrenched in legal doctrine. Article XI of the Constitution of Tennessee is the Declaration of Rights, and like the rest of the constitution, did not extend to all citizens. Women, Indigenous people, and African Americans were largely excluded or were not even recognized by the newly formed state. The Tennessee Constitution remained consistent with the Constitution of the United States. The admission of Tennessee into the Union was an important event in American history and was a beneficial addition to the United States, but not all Tennesseans experienced or received the benefits from this newly formed state.

Indigenous Peoples and Tennessee's Statehood


The Indigenous people inhabiting the newly formed state included the Chickasaw, Choctaws, Cherokee, and Muskogean. Leading up to Tennessee’s admission, what is now present day Tennessee, was considered a Southwest Territory and the Indigenous were subject to policies that pertained exclusively to them. As early as 1785, treaty provisions were put in place which granted the United States the “right of managing all (Indian) affairs." Although negotiations did take place with various groups, such as the Cherokee, and treaties were created, this did little to prevent the relocation of Indigenous people and did even less to protect their ancestral lands and ways of life. The Indigenous population were continuously forced off of their ancestral homes and were pushed further down the Tennessee River. This allowed for permanent settlement for the white American population, at the expense of the Indigenous peoples who used to have claim to the territory. These Americans and frontiersmen could now access and begin farming on the land that was previously disputed. In 1789, just six years before statehood, William Blount was appointed as “governor and superintendent of Indian Affairs for the territory," by President George Washington. The jurisdiction put in place had a central focus on ‘civilizing’ the Southwest regions Indigenous groups by “encouraging agriculture and useful arts.” Policies and negotiations with certain Indigenous groups such as the Cherokee, did take place, but ultimately the white settlers took precedence when it came to land claims and the buying and selling of property. Sentiments towards the loss of Indigenous lands and territories can be expressed through a group of various Cherokee chief’s address to Governor William Blount:

…is it because we are a poor broken nation not able to help ourselves? or is it because we are red people? Or do the white people look on us as the Buffaloe and other wild beasts in the woods, and that they have a right to take our property at their pleasure? Though we are red we think we were made by the same power, and certainly we think we have as much right to enjoy our property as any other human being that inhabit the earth. If not we hope our brother will not screen anything from us, if we are to have our land taken away at the pleasure of any white man that chuses to go and settle on it.

The admission to the United States only strengthened the position of government officials and the legitimacy of the various policies. The events that led up to the admission of Tennessee in 1796 into the union had negative effects on the Indigenous population and often times led to violent clashes between the Indigenous and the white American populations. In the years following Tennessee becoming an official state, the Indigenous population continued to be subjected to unfair policies and regulations. The Constitution of Tennessee in 1796 also affirmed the inequalities in the newly formed state by only allowing political activity for a select few people. All of the policies and limitations for a number of people in the state was only a foundation for further disenfranchisement and inequalities in the future of Tennessee.

Further Reading


For more information on the above topics, see the History of Tennessee: Further Reading.

Antebellum Tennessee (1796-1861)

Early Settlements


Early Memphis


The area of Memphis had been populated long before becoming a part of the United States. Memphis was first populated by indigenous peoples many years prior to becoming part of the United States due in part to its geographical location. The land was found favorable because it is along the Mississippi River, while still being situated high enough to prevent flooding. The land would later be claimed by the Spanish, French, and British before coming into American hands. The US purchased the land in 1818 from the Chickasaw Indians. The town of Memphis was founded a year later by Andrew Jackson, James Winchester, and John Overton. Memphis was officially incorporated into the state of Tennessee in late 1826. Early Memphis found great success due to its prime location along the river, while the surrounding areas such as the Mississippi Delta were prime for cotton plantations, allowing the city to become a major player in the cotton market. This market at the time was mostly dominated by slave owners and because of that, Memphis became a large hub for the slave trade. By the 1850s, Memphis boasted the only east-west railroad in the south allowing it to grow to become the largest landlocked cotton market in North America at the time. This also caused Memphis to become a major target in the Civil war, which would come in the following years. The industry became so lucrative that when the debate over seceding to the union came, it was because while the town was definitely on the side of pro-slavery, they were hesitant to leave as there was a lot of money coming from the northern markets and leaving would cause a massive blow to business. The town of Memphis was designated by the government for white settlement after purchase. In the 1830s, the Indian Removal Act passed, forcing many people from their homes and to be relocated west of the Mississippi. Memphis became a hub for what would later be called the trail of tears, as many left from that point on their way to their new homes of designated Indian territory. Due to the slave-based nature of the economy in Memphis, African Americans made up a sizeable chunk of the population. This percentage grew from the town's founding until the war, when around one-quarter of the population were slaves. By the time the war began, the town had a population of about 55,000.

Founders Of Memphis


Founded in 1819 by the three men pictured, Memphis was named after the Egyptian city of the same name. The name was chosen due to the Egyptian city also being the capital and located on a prominent river.

Early Knoxville


Knoxville became part of the state of Tennessee in 1815 after much negotiation between surveyors and the regional Cherokee over boundaries. It served as the first capital of Tennessee up until 1817. Knoxville did not have a booming economy in it's early days, but rather was known as a "rough around the edges" hub for travelers to stop and rest as they made their way down the river or westward across the country. Hundreds of travelers passed through the city on a daily basis, prompting quick growth of local businesses. The geographical location of the town signaled a prosperous economic future as it was at the convergence of three rivers. Knoxville quickly became a sales hub for the local area as many came down from the surrounding mountains of the Appalachian to head into the town for imported goods. The town most prominently brought in cotton from the south in exchange for locally grown products. Much like Memphis, the town's population and business center experienced real growth once the railroad was built in the 1850s. Knoxville's growth had been hindered by the fact that it was relatively isolated due to the mountain ranges that blocked off the city from everyone else. It became very difficult to traverse by road and thus severely stunted the growth of the population for many years following its founding. Due to these issues, Knoxville legislators were some of the most enthusiastic when it came to building a rail line that connected them with the rest of the states. Unfortunately, before its eventual introduction in 1854, the city witnessed the financial failure of one line in the 1830s. This introduction put the expansion on a fast track as the population went on to more than double in the decade. The city went on to open multiple factories producing train cars among other things before the civil war began.

Early Nashville

Fort Nashborough, First Ave. and Church St., Nashville, Tenn (74048)

Before becoming incorporated in 1806, the area was home to Fort Nashborough, a small stockade located in the middle of what would become Tennessee. The fort would become a cornerstone of the early city, which would quickly grow and flourish due to its prime positioning in relation to the rest of the state, as well as the Ohio River. The city thrived and continue to grow, quickly becoming the state's capital from 1812 to 1817. In 1817, Knoxville once again became the capital of Tennessee, however, Nashville would regain capital status in 1826, a title which it still holds today. In the late 1840s, when the cholera epidemic made its way to the interior states, Nashville found itself hit hard. Over 1849-1850, cholera ran rampant in the town. It is approximated that over the course of these two years, between 700-800 people lost their lives due to the epidemic. This was devastating due to the fact that the population of Nashville at the time was already under ten thousand. The most notable life claimed by the outbreak was that of James K. Polk, the acting president at the time. While he was not considered to have contracted cholera while in Nashville he did, however, succumb to it in Nashville in the summer of 1849. In the mid-1850s, the railroad was built through the city, further taking advantage of the prime location that it was founded on. This led to the further expansion and boom of the city with its perfect location. However, this prime location proved detrimental once the civil war came, causing it to be a focal point for the opposing sides.



Cherokee Wars


The Cherokee-American War, otherwise called the Chickamauga Wars, were a number of significant clashes and skirmishes between the Cherokee and other affiliated tribes and European settlers in the southern frontier of the United States, caused by an increase in European settlement in Cherokee lands, such as Tennessee. The conflict lasted through 1776-1795. The War split into two parts, the first part lasting from 1776-1783 and the second part lasting from 1783-1794. During the first part of the war, (Included the Revolutionary War) the Cherokee formed an ally with the British to fight against their American adversaries. The second part of the war consisted of the Cherokee location/settlement shifting to the West. As a result, The Cherokee served as a surrogate between New Spain and the United States of America.

The sacred home of the Cherokee Nation was, what is now, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, settled by the Cherokee in approximately 1000 A.D. after leaving from the New England states. Cherokee living was hunting, trading, growing their food and living in small, matriarchal communities. The first Europeans arrived in 1540, when explorer Hernando de Sota, of Spain, surveyed the Cherokee territory. When more European explorers and traders came to the North America, the Cherokee had settled and controlled much of the southeastern United States. In the late 1700’s, many, many settlers arrived from Europe ready for a life in the United States. The Cherokee fought with settlers but eventually withdrew to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Tennessee Cherokee used a lot of the tools, weapons and methods brought by the settlers and these items affected their everyday life as they began to hunt animals for their pelts, not only for food, as they needed pelts to trade for goods. The more people arrived to settle on the Cherokee land, the more conflict arose. These battles against whites with better weapons, as well as new diseases brought over from Europe led to much Cherokee death. A conflict between British soldiers and the Overhill Cherokees at Fort Loudoun ended with British surrender on August 7, 1760. Captain Paul Demeré and some men were ambushed and the fort and the rest of the soldiers were taken prisoner. The Cherokee were the last native group to live in Tennessee. The fur trade changed the Cherokee way of life forever. The Cherokee became dependent on European goods and over hunted the region’s animals. The French and Indian War and the Seven Years' War led to even more fighting between the Cherokee and American settlers, as British and Spanish used the Cherokee to fight the Americans further their own ambitions. The Cherokee Nation heavily influenced the southern frontier including the state of Tennessee. The name Tennessee itself was named when British settlers arrived at a Cherokee village called Tanasi which means “winding-river” or “river of great bend” which is now referred to as the Little Tennessee River. The war was considered very irregular as it consisted of guerrilla tactics, periods of inactivity, and a range of small to larger battles. The Seven Years’ War (between French and Natives) also influenced further tension amongst the Cherokee and American settlers. Dragging Canoe, also known as The Savage Napoleon, was a Cherokee leader who led Cherokee warriors and other members from neighbouring Indian tribes during the war.

During the American Revolution, the Cherokee fought against the American settlers in their region, and also as allies of British against their American colonies. For example, Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals was attacked in 1776 by Dragging Canoe and his over 1,000 Cherokee warriors and nearly wiped out Fort Nashborough (which later became Nashville) the Battle of the Bluffs in April 1781. With The 1775 Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, also known as the Transylvania Purchase, the Cherokee sold Kentucky and Middle Tennessee to the American colonies. Dragging Canoe hated this Treaty and said the settlement of those lands would be “dark and bloody,”. At the end of the American Revolution, most Cherokee wanted peace with the United States. When the Treaty of Dewitt's Corner was signed in June 1776, Dragging Canoe and his warriors moved further down the Tennessee River to further white settlement from a better location. Since there were more loyalists in the south, British troops started to focus their war campaign south towards the end of 1778. The revolutionary phase or the Cherokee of War 1776 (first part of the war) consisted of the Cherokee fighting settlers and others that intruded their land. This phase started off with the Loyalists retreating back from Cherokee land as tensions began to rise rapidly. Known and feared Loyalists such as John Stuart (Superintendent of Indian Affairs) and Thomas Brown both flee to ensure their safety. Northern Tribes (Iroquois, Ottawa, etc.) were led by a British governor to delegate with southern Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee). This was done to encourage all the tribes to fight alongside the British against the Americans. Dragging Canoe accepted these terms by accepting ceremonial belts from the potential partnering tribes. Before fighting alongside the northern tribes, Dragging Canoe first initiated a small battle/raid in Kentucky. After the small raid in Kentucky, the first Cherokee campaigns commenced. War parties were sent to South and North Carolina. The Cherokee conquered land around the Blue Ridge, and the Catawba River. Following that, Cherokee and Loyalist (dressed like Cherokee) attacked a fort (named Lindsay Station) in South Carolina. There were no Cherokee casualties. Ultimately, there were multiple attacks on the American frontier. Forts and land were captured by the Cherokee, partnering tribes and the loyalists to ensure their power. The affected colonies were determined to respond back to recover their crippled frontier. Thousands of men were sent throughout the frontier, which included the areas of Little Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia. The Colonial Response resulted in numerous battles such as the Battle of Twelve Mile Creek, Ring Fight, Battle of Tugaloo, and the Battle of Tamassee. After a series of battles, a summit meeting, which included western tribes (Muscogee, Mohawk, Seneca, Etc.), was held in January 1783. The meeting was held in St. Augustine (capital of Eastern Florida), where Dragging Canoe, along with 1,000 Cherokees attended. The summit requested for a union with the Indians to oppose colonists and the American settlers. A couple of months after in Tuckabatchee, the Cherokee and other major/smaller tribes attended another council meeting. This meeting ended with a disagreement about the federation and the Treaty of Paris was written and signed. The treaty was signed in May, 1783 and was designed to create boundaries between the State of Georgia and the Cherokee. The Treaty of Paris was signed between the British and the United States which ended the American Revolution. After signing the treaty, Dragging Canoe partnered up with the Spanish as they had a lot of influence in the south. The Spanish and Dragging Canoe worked together to oppose the Americans. Smaller Indian bands such as the Chickasaw and Muscogee signed the Treaty of French lick in November 6, 1783 which was designed to prevent them from attacking/fighting/going to war, with the United States. During this time, the Lower Cherokee were also prevented to attack until more Americans settled in the frontier. Warfare broke out in the summer of 1776 in east Tennessee and later spread to along the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee.

During the American Revolution, the Cherokee fought against the American settlers in their region, and also as allies of British against their American colonies. For example, Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals was attacked in 1776 by Dragging Canoe and his over 1,000 Cherokee warriors and nearly wiped out Fort Nashborough (which later became Nashville) the Battle of the Bluffs in April 1781. With The 1775 Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, also known as the Transylvania Purchase, the Cherokee sold Kentucky and Middle Tennessee to the American colonies. Dragging Canoe hated this Treaty and said the settlement of those lands would be “dark and bloody,”. At the end of the American Revolution, most Cherokee wanted peace with the United States. When the Treaty of Dewitt's Corner was signed in June 1776, Dragging Canoe and his warriors moved further down the Tennessee River to further white settlement from a better location. The climax of the Cherokee influence occurred from 1788-1792 which was during the Post-Revolutionary stage. From 1788-1789, the Cherokee-Franklin War occurred, which was the most violent war since the wars of 1776. In 1789, a council at Coweta, declared that Cherokee and Muskogee can no longer trust both the Spanish and Americans. Furthermore, the council wrote a letter to Great Britain to announce they were willing to be loyal to the king in return for his support. However, this plan never really fell through. Commencing this, this stage of the war consisted of a range of treaties and battles. There was a Prisoner exchange, Treaty of New York (1790), Bob Benge’s War, and the Battle of Wabash. Ultimately, these series of events led to the death of Dragging Canoe. In 1792, Dragging Canoe died from a possible heart attack after celebrating northern victory. A majority of the conflicts ended in November 1794 with the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse. The Northwest Indian War ended with the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. The Cherokee and other Indian tribes were forcibly removed from their lands when the Indian Removal Act in 1830 was passed into law. The Cherokee called this the Nunna daul Isunyi—"the Trail Where We Cried" or "Trail of Tears”. Most of West Tennessee remained Indian land until the Chickasaw Cession of 1818, when the Chickasaw ceded their land between the Tennessee River and the Mississippi River.

African American Slave Life on Plantations

A coffle of slaves being driven on foot from Staunton, Virginia, to Tennessee in 1850.

African American life on the plantations of Tennessee during the Antebellum period leading up to the civil war, represented the larger societal interactions between races in economics, politics, and culture. Ideals of white supremacy supported the oppression and forced labour of African American slaves within plantations. Divided across the landscape, plantations in the west were primarily of cotton export, while those in the middle-featured tobacco, livestock and wheat. Madison County is representative of Tennessee’s slaveholding and cotton producing southwestern sector. In 1860, two out of five white families, within the area, owned at least one slave. Anywhere from one, to fifteen, to one hundred slaves may be employed on a singular plantation, depending on the geography, and the requirements of the produce and planter. The Hermitage, a one thousand-acre plantation owned by former president Andrew Jackson, at its largest size, exploited the labor of one hundred and forty African American slaves.

Institutional Slavery in Tennessee


Slavery was prevalent in the Antebellum era in Tennessee, with there only being a population of 77,262 residents in the state, of which 10,613 were slaves by the year 1796. The legal status of each of these slaves were determined by the North Carolina Act of Cession which legally allowed slavery in the new statehood of Tennessee. By this time in the United States, governments had more control over slavery compared to the slave owners, which made committing any crimes against these slaves more difficult to do without consequence. This sometimes meant slaves were rewarded with “more freedom of action and movement than was allowed in the older states and regions of the lower south.” To say that these slaves and their families had it easier than others though, would be an overstatement, as the physical, mental, and emotional pain these families went through remained prevalent throughout slave history and afterwards. For young women who grew up as slaves, as explained by the Tennessee Tribute, "puberty marked the beginning of a lifetime of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse from masters and mistresses, and members of the planter family." Travelling as a slave was regulated by a system using passes which were supplied by their masters. "No slave, except a domestic servant, was supposed to leave his master's premises without a pass, explaining his cause of absence", Caleb P. Patterson noted in The Negroe in Tennessee. The rights slaves did have on these plantations included permission of one person to carry a gun for hunting during the cultivation for harvesting crops. However, if this person were caught hunting unlawfully, they were "whipped not exceeding 30 lashes." While slavery was still on the rise in the late eighteen to early nineteenth century, slaves could be purchased at about $300 each, and by the year 1832 that had risen to an average of about $800. However, in some counties including Davidson County, slaves were hired for as little as 15 dollars per year. In most circumstances, the prices of slaves would fluctuate with the rise of cotton culture as well as any changes to the country’s economic prosperity. The act of trading or selling slaves was often difficult, as it was illegal to do so between states from 1826 and 1855 and in 1823 self-hiring became illegal, which had the potential to land anyone caught doing so in trouble. It was much easier to hire slaves within Tennessee, as many slave-owners often “did not require the services of all their slaves at one time,” it was often that their neighbours would hire slaves from them for shorter periods of time. This was seen as very easy for all parties because cheap labor would be obtained by the hirer, and the owner was able to put one of his otherwise unused slaves to work for a profit.

Slave cabin, Tennessee, USA. Located on the Merritt family lands in Grainger County.

Layout and Structure


Slavery in Tennessee followed a unique layout due to Tennessean geography. The Western section of the state was best suited to traditional agriculture development due to its placement on the banks of the Mississippi River. This portion of the state was dominated by white settlers from other U.S states, chiefly from Virginia. This focus on traditional agriculture meant that few large scale slave operations existed; large plantation style estates were deemed to be unprofitable in this region. While slavery did exist in Eastern Tennessee, it was usually limited to one or two slaves per owner. The center of the state was dominated by ranches and the raising of cattle, another style that did not lend itself to large amounts of slaves on one property. The Western portion of the state was dominated by large-scale cotton and tobacco plantations.

The layout of the average plantation was similar to that of a small village. Many buildings were constructed to meet the high demands. The buildings varied farm to farm, however often included a smokehouse, icehouse, hen house, schoolhouse, slave quarters, livestock housing, corn pen, cotton house, and food shelters. The master, or planter’s quarters, was generally referred to as the “big house”, due to its elaborate display of wealth and power. The multi-storeyed mansions, furnished with luxury, stood in stark contrast to the small accommodations provided for African Americans. On average, slave quarters were made up of sixteen-foot by sixteen-foot log cabins that were intended by planters to keep their slaves, literally and figuratively, in their place. The difference in condition between the “big house” and slave quarters, serves as a physical representation of oppression from master to slave, and became a means of establishing a social hierarchy on the plantation. The organization of slave housing was generally divided by job. Cooks and house servants lived near the master’s house, while field hands lived closer to the crops. Storage pits featured beneath the floors of the slave cabins do not correlate with earlier African architectural forms and are evidence of the influence of European culture on African Americans oppressed on plantations.

Work and Leisure

Scenes on a cotton plantation, sketched by A.R. Waud.

The lives of slaves on the plantation were dictated by the agricultural calendar and seasons of plowing, planting, hoeing, and harvesting. Throughout the year, and across multiple plantations, slave labor varied due to the demands of the farm crop and master. For example, a cotton plantation, requires the harvesting, ginning, and baling of the crop. Slaves were also employed in mines, fields, manufactories, shops, and houses. Under particularly savage authority, slaves often worked deep into the winter, sometimes as late as February. Winter duties included fixing ploughs, cutting wood, knocking down stalks of cotton and corn, and collecting manure. Children worked to carry dinner and collect water. Slaves who were too old to work in the fields, regularly labored as cooks, and in the spinning and weaving of cotton. Skilled slaves worked as carpenters, horse trainers, groomsmen, mill workers, and wood cutters. Slaves were forcibly worked by their masters to the maximum possible potential, often through horrific, and inhumane conditions. In their free time, slaves tended to their gardens which provided an important supplement to their meagre diets. Although slaves were constantly deprived of breaks, regularly scheduled rests often came on Sundays as slaves occasionally attended church with their masters. Christmas, however, was the best opportunity for leisure as work lightened, and masters often granted certain freedoms, such as congregation at local free black households. Throughout the year planters kept records that tracked the harvest progress of slaves sorted by name and yield. The tense slave-master relationship varied as slaves were subject to different forms of treatment across different plantations.

Iron mask, collar, leg shackles and spurs used to restrict slaves.

Punishment and Resistance

Andrew Jackson reward notice for an Escaped Slave 1804.

As a slave, the consequences for not fulfilling your master’s wishes were brutal, savage, and inhuman. Regardless of age, whippings and lashings were given as regular punishment for disobedience. Reports describe the flagellation of slaves younger than fifteen. They were often chased down on horseback and beaten, leaving them broken, bruised, and bloody. In cotton picking season, women who did not work fast enough were punished in the harshest manner. Despite the abuse, when unsupervised, slaves on the plantation, often executed forms of resistance and revolt. A common method of rebellion was to purposefully work below the required quota, and not fulfill particular demands arranged by the master. Slaves often, also engaged in thievery of livestock and food, as well as robberies on the “big house”. The most substantial form of defiance was escaping the plantation in search of freedom. Slaves who ran away, were tracked and hunted by slave patrols. Patrols served the purpose of controlling the black population within American and maintaining fear. Once caught, slaves were returned to bondage and punished.

Slaves Brought to Trial


The legal process for accused slaves was another topic throughout the Antebellum period which became very corrupt and involved many changes. In all trials involving slaves, the jury in court were made up of justices and freeholders, who were all slaveholders. In 1815, there were 3 justices and 9 freeholders who were "empowered to try slaves for all offences", and by 1819 the amount of freeholders were increased to 12. It wasn't until 1825 where the jury may have contained non-slaveholders, if the full 12 freeholders could not be reached. However, the verdicts these non-slaveholders gave were often deemed invalid if it was shown that these jurors divided the jury decision. In 1835 the legal procedures surrounding slaves were switched for the better when special courts specifically for slaves were abandoned. The right of appeal was established and "no slave was to be tried by a jury until an indictment had been found against him by a grand jury in the regular way." This made Tennessee one of the 5 states to grant slaves the right of appeal. Although this did change the legal process for tried slaves in a major way, the fight didn't end for African Americans as only 13 years later the right of appeal was given back to the slave masters. In 1858, only a few years before the civil war, a law was passed which allowed 5 'creditable' (usually white) people to "file an accusation of insurrection or conspiracy to kill against a slave" which then allowed the judge to give permission to the jury to try the slave for this offence without waiting to file a notice regularly with the court. The rights of African Americans in the legal system at this time were never fair or even existent, since when one law helped these people out in the slightest way, there were always freeholders in the judicial system to diminish whatever progress had taken place.

Religion, Spirituality, and Beliefs


Although subject to forced assimilation into European culture, African Americans were largely able to maintain a strong independent belief-system, culture, and spirituality throughout the plantations of Tennessee. Items archaeologically recovered at plantation sites presumed to serve spiritual and religious purposes include: smoothed stones, glass beads, charms in the shapes of human fists, quartz crystals, reshaped ceramic, and animal bones. Identical items are found at slave dwellings throughout the eastern United States, and Caribbean. Quartz crystals, in arrangements with black stone and glass beads, draw similarities to the Minkisi, or charms, of the Bakongo peoples of the Congo-Angolan region of Africa. They reflect a larger African worldview of life and death, and are evidence of a distinct American slave culture influenced by the origin of African American slaves in Africa. Tiny copper alloy “fist-charms,” were believed to grant luck and fertility, as well as protection from harm. Colored glass beads served a multitude of medicinal, religious, and decorative purposes and were sewn onto clothing to ward off evil. The church and Christianity were used as a method to assimilate African Americans to white values, ideals, and culture. There, African Americans were taught subservience, and obedience. The ability of slaves on the plantations of Tennessee to preserve their rich spiritual heritage is analogous to African American persistence across the United States in the face of oppression, racism, cruelty and injustice.

Fear from Outside Communities


Present all throughout this time period is the fear from the white people of these societies of the African American population in general, and more specifically that they would eventually rise up against them. While Tennessee was one of the more liberal of the southern states when it came to the freedom and emancipation of slaves, it is clear that there was always an ongoing attempt to keep the power in their favor. As liberal as their policy on emancipation was, it also ensured that once a slave was emancipated they were to be removed from the state, as well as prevent already free blacks from immigrating to the state. It was their belief that it was the duty of African Americans to either be serving a master or “they should be removed from those areas where they were sufficiently numerous to endanger white dominance.” In the antebellum south generally, slavery was considered to present “a social system and a civilization with a distinct class structure, political community, economy, and ideology,” that was subscribed to mainly by the white members of society. They were the group most affected by the strong anti-slavery feelings felt by many in Tennessee, especially slave owners considering that many laws were in place that they would have seen as against them. Some of these included the master paying for anything stolen or damaged by the slave, be it food or clothing due to not being adequately provided so; as well as beating or physically abusing a slave becoming an indictable offense.

Life of Free African Americans


There were still many restrictions that people of color had to live by, even if they were considered to be free. Because of the dominating presence of slavery in these kinds of communities, the presence of those that were walking free angered many, “because of their self-sufficiency and very desire to live as free people” as well as the fact that they were made to be valuable counterpoints to all of those that were pro-slavery, typically those that owned slaves themselves. In order to maintain their legal status free African Americans had many rules that they had to follow on a daily basis. One of which was that they would have to have documents with them at all times that detailed exactly who they were and proved their freedom. Others were that they were exempt from joining the military, however it is believed that some may have been able to vote under the new constitution of 1834 in which “free men who should be contempt witnesses against a white man in court of justice” were allowed to vote. Most of those considered free were in most cases trapped in an in-between stage, in which they were “neither bond nor free.”

Decline of Slavery in Tennessee


The number of slaves in the state would begin to decline in the period leading up to the American Civil War. This decline was due to a number of factors. The key cause of the decline of slaves in Tennessee was due to a trend towards the sale of slaves into the Deep South. When the African slave trade was ended, the demand for slaves in the United States would skyrocket, with large cotton and tobacco plantations in Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia in need of increased labor. This meant that Tennessean slave owners could gain large profits by selling their slaves at auction; many opted to do so due to their dwindling profits within the state.

Davy Crockett


Davy Crockett is America’s quintessential folk hero, he is known as the king of the wild frontier and has come to represent America’s self-described resilient and conquering spirit. He is best known for his exploits in the military, particularly his participation in the battle of the Alamo, which is also a staple of American folklore.

Portrait of David Crockett, 1831

Personal Life


Davy Crockett’s life began in a way that was not unique to any other American during the period. Davy was born in what was, at the time, North Carolina, but is known now as Greene County, Tennessee, on August 17th, 1786. Davy grew up in a poor, indebted family, and by the age of 12 he was indentured to a man named Jacob Siler by his father in order to clear one of his father’s debts. By 1802 Davy had entered the employment of a man named John Canady, for whom he worked for four years until 1806 when he was married to Polly Finley, and settled on a plot of land near her family home. Crockett and Finley had three children together and lived in three separate houses; the third of which in Franklin county is where Polly Finley died in 1915. Crockett would remarry a woman named Elizabeth Patton later that same year, with whom he had three children.

Military Career


Crockett’s military career began in 1813 when he enlisted as a scout for the Creek War. This was in response to the Fort Mims massacre of the same year, which Tennessee militia general Andrew Jackson used as a rallying cry for the war. Crockett served in the Creek war until the end of 1813. He re-enlisted in the military in August of 1814, when Andrew Jackson, now of the US Army, asked for support from the Tennessee militia in driving British forces out of Spanish Florida as part of the War of 1812. Once again Crockett returned home from service at the end of the same year. In the War of 1812, and to a lesser extent the Creek Wars, Crockett did not see much of the main action. However, it is here where his legend as an American folk hero began to grow. During his time in the Creek Wars, Crockett preferred hunting to feed his fellow soldiers over killing Creek warriors, which made him well known within the militia. Him being a soldier in general during the period helped initiate the creation of his legend by participating in what are considered essential wars in the American mythos.

Political Career


In 1821 Crockett ran successfully for a seat in the Tennessee General Assembly. He represented Lawrence and Hickman counties. Crockett’s main concern while in office was legislation to ease the tax burden on the poor as well as fighting for the rights of impoverished settlers of the newly civilized Tennessee. Crockett’s time in the assembly was also noted by his opposition of many candidates endorsed by Andrew Jackson as well as his endorsement of John Williams, Jackson’s opponent in being elected to the senate in 1823. Crockett’s political career continued when he ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1825, losing to Adam Rankin Alexander. He then ran again the following year and was elected for the 1827-1829 term. In 1928 Andrew Jackson was elected President and in 1830 introduced the Indian Removal Act, which made it legal to remove Native Americans from their ancestral lands west of the Mississippi in favor of white settlers. Crockett voted against this bill and was the only Tennessean to do so. The opposition of Jackson’s policy was not well received, and Davy was defeated in the 1831 election by William Fitzgerald. Crockett was able to defeat Fitzgerald in 1833 and return to office. He served until 1835 when he was defeated by Adam Huntsman, it was during this final term that Crockett wrote his autobiography.

Texas Revolution and Battle of the Alamo


It was after Crockett’s final term in public office is when the most well-known period of his life began. This began while he was still in office when he considered the idea of moving to Texas, which was not yet a part of the United States , if Jacksons successor Martin Van Buren was elected President. A year later, Crockett, now out of office, discussed the idea of raising a group of volunteers with his friend Benjamin McCulloch to head to Texas for the impending revolution against the Mexican Government. The expedition began on November 1st, 1835. This would be the last time Crockett would see any of his children. His youngest daughter noted that her father was “dressed in his hunting suit, wearing a coonskin cap, and carrying a fine rifle.” This image of Crockett has become as legendary as his name, or any of his actions. Despite Crockett being a prominent politician for most of his life this image of him is part of the reason he’s known as the quintessential frontiersman or the “King of the Frontier”. Unfortunately, Crockett’s campaign in Texas was unsuccessful as he was killed on March 6th, 1836 during the Battle of the Alamo. This battle is one of the most famous events and American history and in American folklore, as all defendants of Alamo fort were killed by the Mexican Army.



Crockett’s exploits as a soldier and frontiersmen as well as his legendary coonskin hat and hunting outfit, coupled with his participation in the Battle of the Alamo has turned him into perhaps the most famous figure in American Folklore and one of Tennessee’s most famous residents. He is also well-known for same of his tamer exploits such as sticking up for impoverished people while in office, and opposing the Indian Removal Act, and Andrew Jackson in general.

Indian Removal Act, 1830


In 1830, President Jackson authorized the “transfer” of five Native American Indian tribes to land in Oklahoma to supposedly “preserve them from white culture.” The Tribes included the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee.

The proposal to remove Indians from the lands had been presented decades earlier, in 1803 by President Thomas Jefferson, but was not enacted until the Jackson Era. Before then, Native Americans had been allowed to remain on the lands within the states if they assimilated into American society. Southerners supported and shared the same ideologies as President Andrew Jackson and considered the Native American’s to be “uncivilized”. This caused high tensions between the Colonists and the Natives, and with the state government about land rights and sovereignty. In response to the growing tension, President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The Act made it so the U.S. government could trade and use land previously owned by Native Americans, as agreed in older treaties with the tribes, for White settlement and expansion. The U.S. government forcibly relocated Native Americans Oklahoma, causing death of more than 5,000. Native American culture was quickly diminishing because of these acts and ideologies of the Americans. Following the proclamation of the Indian Removal Act, the Cherokee tribe took to legal action in order to distinguish the power that the Federal Government had over their land and their rights. The Cherokee fought in the Supreme Court for a ruling in 1823 about the relationship between the Federal Government and the Native American tribes, and whether or not the Government had the jurisdiction in this case to order their removal. Georgia planned to remove Cherokee and Creek peoples from northern and western parts of the state, as the Federal government was in a locked dispute with the Cherokee in court. There was no determined law yet, which allowed for a loophole in the division of lands for the time being. Georgians did not accept the legitimacy of the federal treaties and began to remove Natives. They threatened violence if the federal army were ordered to defend the tribes. Tension grew worse and endangered many more Native Americans. Jackson did nothing to defend or stand up for the Natives, as he had fought against them and thought of them as “savages”. The decision of the Supreme Court was that the Native Americans did in fact have to adhere to federal law. The Government was at liberty to trade and sell the land. In December 1829, Georgia’s legislature enacted a complete law that nullified all Cherokee laws and subjugated them to the laws of the State. Before this, Georgia had been living as a Native American state within a state. Native American titles to lands were extinguished and given back to the states in which they resided. Georgia agreed to give the Federal Government jurisdiction over the new Western lands, which were promising in farmland and eventually the discovery of Gold. Here, it is clear to see the American Ideology of Manifest Destiny shining through.

Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age in Tennessee (1861-1900)

Historically, the State of Tennessee has always been an agrarian state with cotton and cattle being two of the main industries. As a mostly agrarian society, slavery had been a vital part of the state economy since the formation of the state from North Carolina. 60 years after the State of Tennessee's founding the American Civil War began, the war had slavery and States' Rights as the foremost causes. The war not only further ingrained the idea of slavery into Tennessee culture but also increased its economy's reliance on slavery. In February 1861, the governor of Tennessee Isham Harris would try to break ties with the United States in a referendum. The referendum would be put down as East Tennessee had more Union supporters than the rest of the state. In April 1861 when President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion in the south, Governor Harris would respond by telling Lincoln he would raise 50,000 troops in the defense of the south and its borders. Tennessee would secede in June 1861 and would be the last of the 11 Confederate states to do so. Tennessee would fight for the Confederates throughout the Civil War and enlist more men than any other state in the Confederacy. Tennessee would fall under Union control in 1863 and thus would begin the reconstruction process of the state.

Women in the Civil War in Tennessee

National Association of Army Nurses

Due to the issue of joining an infantry division not being a plausible option for the majority of women, patriotic Confederate women in Tennessee had to find other means to support the Southern cause in the American Civil War. Though only a small number of women experienced life on the battlefield, all women experienced the influence of the Civil War on their lives; whether through loss, showing their support, or a newfound sense of patriotism, women were involved in the War in more varied ways than soldiers often were. The famous role that women played, on both the Confederate and Union side, was that of nurses: caring for the sick and wounded soldiers. Due to it being within the accepted realm of female ability during this time, it was often upper and middle-class white women who were matronly, unmarried, and childless that took on these roles, or were at least considered best suited for the position. In larger Tennessee cities such as Nashville, Confederate women founded hospital associations to offer their services to injured soldiers. This was done by fundraising for the sick, sewing clothing and other items, and working as nurses and laundresses to help other hospitals in surrounding areas. One benefit that was held, ‘Soiree Dansante,’ raised eighty-five dollars for the sick and injured in the area. These women would often simply visit the sick and wounded in hospitals to comfort those that were dying, to show their gratitude and support, and it is said that this helped to improve morale and mortality rate. The work done by these women, in the name of the Confederate cause, helped to lessen the Confederacy’s urgent demand for medical care in the early stages of the war as well as at the height of and late into the war and was recognized by surgeons and soldiers alike as live-saving work.

Nursing is not the only role, however, that women took on to support their men during the Civil War. Aside from general support and cheering their men into battle, women would also cook and clean for the soldiers, and sometimes Confederate prison escapees, passing by their homes, offer their houses as a meeting place or headquarters for Confederate Generals, make clothing and textiles, and bring needed supplies to soldiers on the field. During the Civil War over 1000 Southern women worked as administrators overseeing the labor in areas of cooking, laundry, and nursing. In Rhea County, Tennessee, a group of Confederate women even formed a cavalry to visit nearby Confederate companies and bring them clothing, food, and nick-nacks. However, these women were eventually arrested by Union forces and forced to take an oath of allegiance to the Union.

There were many challenges to being a Confederate woman in Tennessee during the Civil War, especially for those who resided in East Tennessee. Though Tennessee was a Confederate state, there was a strong Union presence in East Tennessee that was especially prominent during the Union occupation of the state. Nevertheless, Confederate women continued to support and fight for their cause in the face of this division, often by creating problems for Union authorities. Most commonly, it was the case that the higher economic standing a woman held, the more likely she was to support the Confederate cause. This was usually due to the fact that she would have come from a slave-owning family. Sometimes, however, women were divided between their husband’s beliefs and their own beliefs and would usually end up siding with their husband; meaning some women sympathetic to the Confederate cause, had to become a Unionists due to the influence of family. As the war went on, under Union occupation, Confederate soldiers behavior worsened; they would steal livestock, and other items, have their houses broken into and items broken, and when women refused to feed them, the women were reprimanded for not properly supporting the cause. Confederate women, however, were often driven by the need to take care of their families, therefore, once they experienced these loses and could no longer support, or did not want to support, the soldiers, they lost interest in supporting the Confederate cause. It became easier for rich families to continue to support the Confederacy than poor ones as the rich could afford the consequences of doing so. Even those who still wanted to support the cause, however, had a tough time due to the hatred and animosity they had to endure from Unionists. Though support did continue through caring for soldiers by providing food, bandages, and warning the Confederate soldiers of Union plans, often women had to go into hiding with their families due to the punishment they would face from Union soldiers. Some Confederate women disregarded the risks and would spy for Confederate authorities, one of the most notable being Belle Boyd; this was considered unladylike conduct and if caught they would be arrested and forced to take an oath, or they would be expelled from the state. Many women could not accept the Confederacy loss and actively fought back against the Union claiming that they would never forgive the federals. Women were expelled from the state for many reasons, including using unladylike language, being the mother of Confederate sympathizers, or sewing Confederate flags. Often women who left, or were forced to leave, lost their homes forever and refused to go back to Tennessee even after the war was over, due to the possible consequences they could face under the new Union rule.

Confederate women also faced all of the difficult experiences of war on the home-front. Separation anxiety from their loved ones, fear of what was to come, loneliness, and the pressure to keep the family and home running as normal. Due to the division of the state, some mothers also had to face the trauma of their sons fighting against each other on opposite sides of the war. Women had to cope, often alone, with the harsh realities of the war, while still being expected to support the Confederate cause.

East Tennessee - Confederacy


Tennessee’s standing during the Civil War was not as clear as other states, specifically in East Tennessee, eventually developing into a war between the Unionists and Confederates. The people were severally divided as 70% of citizens were against separation. At first, the Confederates wanted to keep the peace and show that they were no threat to the Unionists, they even tried to persuade some Unionists to join the Confederacy while in the beginning the loyalists were the violent ones with attempting to drive out some Confederates and even trying to kill some. The Confederacy tried very hard to live in harmony with the Unionists in the beginning and made many attempts to show that they were not harmful even going as far as to start a “peace mission”. They agreed to not harm the Unionists as long as they did not commit any rebellious acts that would need repression. Another condition of the unionist/confederacy solidarity was that the Unionists could not provide aid to the North if they needed it. In an attempt to show how much they valued Unionists, the Confederacy opened the poll election for Confederate rule to the Unionists despite being warned against this idea. This proved to be a bad idea as it sparked new forms of resistance from the Unionists. The persistent Unionist resistance began to upset the Confederates considerable, especially General. Felix K. Zollicoffer, who had initially been in favor of living peacefully with the Unionists. The Confederates began moving against forms of rebellion and sent out arrest warrants for loyalists. This proved to not be effective as many Confederates still felt this was too harsh and decided to release loyalists on the condition that they would sign an oath of allegiance to the Confederate government and be on good behavior. The Unionists still did not back down and went as far as to even burning down major bridges to essentially trap the Confederates so they were unable to get supplies. This made the Confederates even more upset, even resulting in the Confederate War Department stepping in. They began a what was similar to a witch hunt, looking for the men who burned down the bridges and the order was to execute anyone found guilty of the bridge-burning immediately. At this point, no Unionist was safe and even those who were previously granted immunity could be arrested. Deciding that things were getting out of hand, The War Department decided to bring in reinforcements to restore order, but before change could come the war was finished.

Infighting Within The Confederate Army


Fighting within the Confederate Army was not uncommon. The most notable was the rivalry between General Evander McIvor Law and General Micah Jenkins. Law and Jenkins were at odds as they were both striving to fill the position of Lieutenant General after the previous one General John Bell Hood got hurt . This rivalry was further fueled by General James Longstreet who supported Jenkins and actively favored him over Law . Law was eventually promoted to Lieutenant General, despite the fact that Longstreet believed that Jenkins deserved the position due to the number of years he had served . Longstreet continuously blamed Law for issues that arose despite him having nothing to do with it. This occurred most notable when Longstreet blamed Jenkins inability to attack Knoxville on Law by saying it was due to his mismanagement . This all came to a head after the Army of Tennessee was defeated at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and had to retreat back to Georgia . Longstreet had once again blamed Law for this loss in order to protect his and Jenkins careers despite that fact that it was partially his fault. Law eventually resigned from the army due to Longstreet’s behavior but continue on in serving the Confederate army while Longstreet created problems in East Tennessee by arresting officers and being argumentative . Law was not the first-person Longstreet had issues with during this time. He had previously been at odds with General Braxton Bragg and even gotten into an argument with President Davis . Many historians believe that Longstreet believe that he always wanted things to be done his way and when they hadn’t in previous events it caused him to feel unappreciated thus causing him to take his frustrations out on Law .

Civil War Battles in Tennessee



Western Theater (Union forces in Blue and Confederate forces in Red

Tennessee was in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. The Western Theater encompassed a massive area including the states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Eastern Louisiana, and Western Florida. A fair amount of battles fought in the Western Theater occurred in Tennessee, from the Battle of Shiloh, one of the most brutal conflicts ever fought, to the Battle of Stones River, which changed the purpose of the entire Civil War. The main aim of these Union campaigns in the Western Theater and Tennessee was to cut the Confederate States of America in half along the Mississippi River and blockade the Southern states from vital resources. This was part of the Anaconda plan to strangle the Confederate States and force them to concede and rejoin the Union. The Union also wanted to help support Eastern Tennessee which was still largely loyal to the Union.

Battle of Fort Donelson

Battle of Fort Donelson

At the beginning of the war, the Union Army realized that the key to the Western Theater would be the major rivers. Following the successful capture of Fort Henry on February 6th, 1862 Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant moved his forces 12 miles to Fort Donelson. On February 13th, with twenty-five thousand men surrounding Fort Donelson, Brig. General Grant performed small attacks to test the Confederate defenses before attacking the fort. This was an important strategic location for the Union as it gave them the means for a southern invasion. Over the first few days, the Union was just moving troops to Fort Donelson. By February 15th the fort was surrounded, and the Confederates decided to launch a surprise attack. They were fended off by the Union forces and the Confederates gave an unconditional surrender the next day. The battle lasted 5 days, ending on February 16th, 1862 with over 800 deaths.

Battle of Shiloh

Union Forces at the Battle of Shiloh

The Battle of Shiloh was fought from April 6th to 7th, 1862 in Southwestern Tennessee around Shiloh Church. The Union Armies were the Army of Tennessee commanded by General Ulysses S. Grant, and the Army of Ohio commanded by General Don Carlos Buell. While the Confederate Army of the Mississippi was commanded by General Albert Sidney Johnston, who, following his death on April 6th, was replaced by Pierre G.T. (P.G.T.) Beauregard. The two Union armies were divided, and Johnston hoped to attack them before they could combine. Johnston amassed 40,000 soldiers and on the morning of April 6th, 1862 attacked Grant’s unprepared army. The Confederates threatened to rout the entire Union army but determined Union resistance at key locations like the Hornet’s Nest and Sunken Road, as well the death of Johnston allowed the Union army to reform around Pittsburgh landing. In the morning of April 7th, Buell arrived and the combined Union armies now outnumbered the tired Confederates 54,000 to 30,000. A general Union assault drove the Confederates back and the battle ended in a Union victory. With Shiloh leaving 23,000 casualties on both sides with 3,000 men dead, it was the bloodiest battle in American history up to that time. The battle drew a lot of criticism and led to any notion of this being a quick and relatively bloodless war being crushed. The battle was the first major Union victory of the war and led to Northern Mississippi, and Vicksburg being opened up for Union actions.

Battle of Stones River/Second Battle of Murfreesboro

Union General Rosecrans at Stones River

The Battle of Stones River, also known as the Second Battle of Murfreesboro, was fought from December 31st,1862 to January 2nd, 1863 along the banks of Stone’s River in central Tennessee. In the winter of 1862, the Union suffered two defeats at Vicksburg, Mississippi and Fredericksburg, Virginia which sapped much of their morale. The Union needed a victory to raise morale and help pave the way for the Emancipation Proclamation. Commanding the 55,000 men of the Union army of the Cumberland was the newly promoted General William Rosecrans and commanding the 38,000 strong Confederate Army of Tennessee was General Braxton Bragg. In October of 1862 Bragg was defeated at the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky and retreated south to central Tennessee around the town of Murfreesboro while Rosecrans resupplied around Nashville. Rosecrans received orders to attack Bragg and so he moved south and occupied positions along the banks of Stones River. On December 31st Confederate forces attacked the Union right flank and broke them; the day was nearly a complete disaster for the Union as, by the end of the day, the Confederates almost encircled the Union army. Bragg was surprised to find, on January 1st, that the Union army had not withdrawn and so he made preparations for another fight. January 1st had little fighting as both sides called a truce to tend to wounded men and prepare their positions. On January 2nd the Confederates attacked again breaking the Union left flank but a heavy Union bombardment blunted the attack in a field that would be known as ‘Hell’s Half Acre’ and the Union positions were retaken by a counterattack. After January 2nd both sides occupied the same positions they had on January 1st, but fresh Union reinforcements forced Bragg to withdraw causing Stones River to be a Union victory. The Battle of Stones River led to the Confederates losing control of central Tennessee, and Abraham Lincoln getting more legitimacy for the Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Stones River was also a turning point in the reason for this war, no longer was it a war simply about preserving the Union, it was now a war about freeing the slaves. After the battle of Stones River the Union army would advance South into Georgiauntil defeats drove them back to the fighting grounds of Tennessee.

Chattanooga Campaign

Map of the Chattanooga Campaign (Union forces in Blue and Confederate forces in Red)

Following the Union defeat at the battle of Chickamauga in Georgia in late September 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland under the newly appointed General George Thomas was besieged in the town of Chattanooga by General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee. Chattanooga was a vital railway connection for the Union in the West and two Union forces were sent to relieve the siege. One coming from the Union Army of Tennessee under General William Sherman and another from the Army of the Potomac under General Joseph Hooker; overall command of the campaign for Union forces was given to General Ulysses S. Grant. The Chattanooga Campaign had three key engagements from November 23-27, 1863, the battles of Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. Bragg set his army up on two heights South of Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. At Orchard Knob on November 23, 1863, a small Confederate force was pushed from positions in front of Missionary Ridge by General Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland. On November 24th, 1863 Hooker’s Union troops attacked the slopes of Lookout Mountain, the battle would be referred to as the “Battle Above the Clouds”. Union soldiers pushed the Northside of the mountain and although the Confederates made determined counter-attacks within six hours the Union forces had won with Bragg withdrawing from the Mountain. On November 25th Grant ordered the attack on Bragg’s last major position around Chattanooga Missionary Ridge. Sherman attacked the Eastern part of the Ridge but was repulsed by the Confederates. However, an assault on the Confederate center by Thomas broke the Confederate lines and swept them off the hill. With the loss of both Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge Bragg was forced to retreat from Tennessee. Chattanooga led to the Confederates being forced out of Tennessee and allowed the Union to maneuver in the heart of the Confederacy.

Regiments of Tennessee: Examples and Organization of Tennessee Regiments


Geographically, Tennessee borders more states than any other and was right in the heart of the action, home to the second-largest number of battles in the war. The state was home to many important railroads, rivers, arms factories, and a great number of fighting men that would need to be controlled to win the war. The Richmond Enquirer went so far as to call it the “Keystone to the Confederate Arch”. The state was divided at the outbreak of the war and contributed soldiers to both sides of the conflict, and serving in a variety of roles such as Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery. Typically speaking, Armies during the Civil War consisted of on average ~80,000 men and could be broken down into two or three Corps, each of which was roughly 26,000 strong. Each Corps consisted of about two to three Divisions of 8,000 soldiers and each made up of two to four Brigades of 2,600 soldiers. Each Brigade was made up of two to five Regiments of 800 men, ideally, lead by a Colonel, and generally speaking later in the war the regiments that made up a brigade were of similar unit types with a few attached cavalry regiments to increase cohesion and effectiveness. Tennessee, with its vital supplies and railroads, and central geographic position between the waring states, played a crucial role in the Civil War, and its people fought in large numbers on both sides, a contributing factor to a large number of savage battles fought within its borders, all of which would have their role to play in the outcome of the war. Now, with a basic understanding of a regiment, and its role in the field of battle, what follows are a few notable examples of regiments drawn up from Tennessee throughout the war and their exploits.

1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment - Confederate

Photograph of Sam Watkins

The First Tennessee Infantry Regiment, known as Maney’s Tennessee Infantry, was organized on May 9, 1861, in Nashville, Tennessee and mustered into service August that same year. The regiment was largely comprised of the former Rock City Guards militia that had been under the command of George Maney, making up the original 10 companies. Colonel Maney would be promoted to brigadier general for his gallantry in command of the regiment at the battle of Shiloh, and so the regiment would be reorganized, adding three more companies from the former Nashville Battalion and electing Captain Hume R. Field as the new colonel, which he would remain until the end of the war, and the regiment became known as Field’s Tennessee infantry. They joined the Army of the North West for the campaign in Cheat Mountain, General Robert E. Lee’s first campaign, which only lasted five days before they were defeated at the Battle of Cheat Mountain by Union forces. Following this unsuccessful action, they joined ‘Stonewall’ Jackson in his campaign in Virginia and the Potomac. Next, they would join the Army of Tennessee, wherein they would reside for the remainder of the war. Here under Maney they would take part in the battle of Shiloh, where they were ordered to partake in an attack on a stubbornly defended Union position, with Maney leading the charge. They smashed through Union lines, leading to their retreat to the river. General Cheatham would describe it as “one of the most brilliant… decisively successful, movements of the day.” Following this, he was ordered to the extreme right to relieve General J. M. Withers, and once again led a shattering charge against the Union. In his memoirs, Samuel R. Watkins would recall the charge: “When the order to charge was given, I got happy… I shouted. It was fun then… One more Charge, then their lines waver and break. They retreat in wilt confusion… [d]ischarge after discharge was poured into the retreating line. The[ir] dead and wounded covered the ground.” They would also join in the invasion of Kentucky, where they would suffer heavy casualties in the battle of Perryville, losing more than half its fighting men. Then, they would retreat to Murfreesboro to take part in the action there, after which they were consolidated with several other infantry regiments in Bragg’s Army. On the Kennesaw line, they would participate in the famous battle of ‘dead angle, before going back to Tennessee to participate in the Battles of Franklin and Nashville in November and December of 1864. They would be harried and harassed as they retreated for the remainder of the war, and by the time of their final surrender, only 125 men of the original 1,200 were left alive.

1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment - Confederate


The First Tennessee Cavalry Regiment (also known as the 12th Tennessee Cavalry) was organized in Spring Creek, Madison County on the first of April in 1862. Through the course of the war, they would find themselves under the command of Colonels Thomas Claiborne, John T. Lay, H. Clay King, and John T. Cox. They performed outpost duty in the campaign following the battle of Shiloh and were commended for their “good service” by Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler for their action in the Kentucky Campaign and battle of Perryville. They also saw action under Major General William J. Hardee in the battle of Murfreesboro in December 1862. Later on, in June 1863, while the Union soldiers were perusing Confederate troops following the capture of Shelbyville, the First Cavalry volunteered to delay the Yankee advance allowing for Confederate general Wheeler to escape by swimming across Duck River. In this action, the unit was almost destroyed. Captain C. H. Conner assumed command of what was left, and the regiment participated in the Chickamauga Campaign under General W. T. Martin. Following the battle of Chickamauga and the reorganization of the Army of Tennessee that followed, they were moved under the command of Brigadier General John H. Kelley. They would go on to participate in the Atlanta campaign after which they disappeared from official records, taking part in ‘special duty’ under General John B. Hood for his invasion of Tennessee. After this, the war nearing its end, they were amalgamated with several different regiments to form a temporary brigade before their final surrender to the Union in Gainesville Alabama, May 12, 1865.

1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery Regiment (African Descent) - Union


In April 1863, the Union realized the need to raise a regiment of heavy artillery for the defense of Memphis, and so under Colonel I. G. Kappner, the black regiment was mustered at Fort Pickering numbering some 1153 men. Though orders stated the staff and commissioned officers to be appointed were all to be white, they also stipulated that the non-commissioned officers were to be raised from the ranks. The regiment was also to receive pay and allowances equal to what any white artillery regiments were receiving at this stage of the war. The regiment also underwent several re-designations throughout its existence, initially titled the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery Regiment (African Descent). In April 1864, it was re-designated to the 2nd Tennessee Heavy Artillery Regiment (Colored), and finally, in late April, the designation was changed one final time to the 3rd U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment. In June 1863 they were deployed as garrison troops in Fort Pickering, participating in the defense of Memphis in this capacity until being transferred to the District of West Tennessee in September 1865, where it remained until the regiment was mustered out of service in 1866.

Reconstruction of Tennessee

Andrew Johnson

In 1862, Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson as Governor of the state of Tennessee. Lincoln did so because of his lack of trust in other candidates running for governor within the state. Johnson was a Southern Unionist and was put in this position because of his prior experience in politics and loyalty to Lincoln. Lincoln and Johnson both agreed that power should be held by Unionists in Tennessee. They also believed in reconstructing the constitution of the state, one that included emancipation. Johnson would now seek approval from Middle and Western Tennessee which were the more Confederate-leaning parts of Tennessee. Eastern Tennessee had been pro-Union for quite some time, the east had sent troops to the Union and had backed emancipation.

President Lincoln tried to put an end to the war quickly by allowing any rebels who left the army amnesty if they swore an oath to the Union and the country. This angered many Unionists in Tennessee and all over the country. It was seen as an easy way out for the rebels who had just recently fought in the north and against the Union itself. The idea was that by allowing rebels to join the Union Lincoln would be taking away a vital resource for the rebels, manpower. The rebels had been outnumbered and outlasted throughout most of the war, which by now had more so become a war of attrition. The South had fought well, winning many battles but they could not keep up with the manpower the Union had at its disposal. Andrew Johnson would instead make “loyalists” (rebels who had taken the amnesty) take a more rigorous oath, swearing to defend the constitution and would call for county elections in parts of the state in March 1864. Johnson would also deny suffrage to ex-Confederates, meaning the vote had been in Unionists' hands which it ended up succeeding in doing. During the Federal elections in November 1864, it had been a fear of Lincoln and Johnson that the Democrats may win if Conservative Unionists and ex-Confederates had a vote. Again Johnson devised an oath that specifically helped their plan of keeping Tennessee in control of the Union. The oath was more radical, it talked of how these oath swearers must oppose peace talks or negotiating with the South, eliminating the other state Governor candidate. Lincoln also tried to sway the vote by allowing soldiers to vote without taking the oath, hoping this may allow for northern men who fought to vote for Lincoln. Lincoln would crush his opponent in the Federal election and keep power to finalize his idea of reconstruction of Confederate states. Johnson would become the Vice-President of the United States and his term as Governor of Tennessee would end on or before March 3rd, 1865. Meaning he would now have to find a suitable replacement who would follow through with his and Lincoln’s vision of reconstruction of Tennessee. In January 1865, a convention would be held in Nashville bringing over 500 Unionists together to discuss the topic of a new constitution. Over a month later the Unionists and Johnson would agree to abolish slavery in the new constitution and dismissing any laws which the confederate government of Tennessee had put in place while in rebellion. Johnson then began to give back power which he had taken to secure a stable and Unionist legislature, he would give them the power to decide on suffrage qualifications. He also called for an election of a new Governor on March 4th. The widely Eastern Tennessee convention in Nashville decided upon William G. Brownlow. The convention was a success in the eyes of Johnson and Lincoln, they had abolished slavery and implemented a stable State Government and changed the constitution to their liking. Brownlow would win and become Governor on March 4th, one day after Johnson had left to become the new Vice-President.

The Gilded Age in Tennessee


The Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897

Illustration of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition

The Tennessee Centennial Exposition in many ways represented the height of the gilded age and reconstruction era in Tennessee. Hosted in 1897, the event was invested with one-million dollars to help plan, build and organize the fair grounds. According to John W. Thomas, the President of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, “the celebration is prompted by reverence for the past as well as a desire to advertise the advantages of Tennessee.” Despite the fact that Thomas and many of his fellow organizers were wealth railway tycoons and saw the Centennial exposition as an opportunity to further their own wealth. It is unique how his words reflect a melding of both a historic and new Tennessee post civil war. Coming at a time when new peoples such as African Americans and women were seeking greater equality and rights the celebrations would help to highlight these attitudes and were used to market Tennessee as a modern state. Ultimately, the Tennessee Centennial Exposition would under perform at its goals of marketing Tennessee as the modern state its creators had hoped at national level due to lower than projected attendance. But despite this short coming the Exposition still played an important role in the Tennessee reconstruction period and helped to highlight Tennessee’s new industry, as well as a shift in the social attitudes towards African Americans and women.

Highlights and Contributions of Tennessee's Economy at the Centennial Exposition


When examining the Tennessee Centennial, it is important to recognize the overtly intended impact the Exposition was hoped to have on both Tennessee and the nation. Supposed to be modeled after the Chicago Worlds Fair, the Tennessee Centennial had hoped to draw in 2,000,000 people over its six-month period. However, it only came close to about 1,800,000 people and so did not stand out as the marketing phenomena that it had sought to be. However that being said the Centennial provided an impressive variety showcasing Tennessean ingenuity and industry. This included the Minerals and Forestry Building, the Machinery Building as well as the Commerce Building. Of these structures, the Minerals and Forestry building housed examples of both local and national resources.The Machinery Building was constructed with the intention to highlight the marvel of machinery and industrialization, despite being powered by engines constructed in Ohio its presents demonstrated that Tennessee was an industrious state with a modern economy. Lastly was the Commerce Building,  which housed exhibits from both local business as well as international ones in order to display Tennessee as a truly international state which could contribute and compete in the globally. In the long run despite these buildings having little impact on the national view of Tennessee they all helped to fuel civic pride in Tennessee and many aspects of the exhibit are memorialized at Centennial Park in Nashville to this day.

Highlight of the African American Community's Contributions to the Centennial Exposition


The Tennessee Centennial Exposition can be examined to see a shifting in attitudes during and post reconstruction particularly in the African American community. Though it would be a far cry from our modern views, the Exposition made an attempt to incorporate the African American community into the celebrations. On March 13th, three months before the celebrations began the Negro Building was constructed and boasted 300 exhibits. Lead by Professor W. H. Council, principal of the Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes, all of the exhibits featured information on black education, science, technology, banking and art. Additional the Negro Building hosted special presentations from Booker T. Washington and Frisk University, all of which was presented in hopes to demonstrate the abilities of African Americans to be productive members in a free and equal society. Additionally, it is important to recognize the significance of the grounds on which the Tennessee Centennial Exposition was built on. This is because the Exposition was built on the former grounds used by the State to muster troops for conflicts, including the American Civil War. Symbolic acts like this, although minute can be indicative of a desire to progress attitudes in the state and begin a new in a post war period of reconstruction and a rebirth of industry. However, upon examining historical documents one can see how these acts can be redirected as is the case with the Forestry Building of previous mention. This is because it was designed to mirror the estate of former Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Of course acts like these would long hang over African Americans well on into the 20th century.

Highlight of the Women's Contribution to the Centennial Expos

The Woman's Building at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, 1896

Through examining Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, like African American’s, we can also see a change in social attitudes to woman in the state. After the Civil War women began to observe African Americans receiving many rights that they themselves had not yet earned which resulted in the establishment of many women’s suffrage groups in the 1880’s in Tennessee. Ultimately this would come to a head in 1897 when Nashville became host to the state suffrage convention, resulting in the states very own Equal Rights Association. While the suffrage movement was tearing through the state it is little coincidence that these growing popular attitudes were reflected at the Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition. The Women’s Building on the fairground was designed by Mrs. Sarah Ward-Conley, and was host to many exhibits organized or designed by women. Examples of this included clothes and inventions made by woman, as well as cooking lessons given in a model kitchen. Much of this would have been a new and uncommon sight for women to see and by hosting it all in one place it helped to fuel a growing call for women’s suffrage across the state.

Jim Crow Laws and Customs (1886-1955)

Jim Crow Laws


Between 1886 and 1955, Tennessee was one of many Southern states to enact a set of racial black- codes that were referred to as Jim Crow laws. White members of communities across the state of Tennessee, other southern states and even those who lived beyond the south, began to erect a number of barriers between themselves and members of other racial and ethnic groups, particularly African Americans that initiated extreme segregation and exclusion.

"At the bus station in Durham, North Carolina", May 1940. Photo by Jack Delano.

Under these Jim Crow laws, white people were seen as first-class citizens. Comparatively, African Americans were seen as inferior, second class citizens who did not deserve freedom or rights that they previously would have expected after the eradication of slavery. The Jim Crow Laws were able to go around the legislation during the time they were put into place to ensure their laws were applicable. The law of 1869 declared that no citizen could be excluded from the University of Tennessee because of race or color. While still including this law, the Jim Crow laws mandated that instructional facilities for black students be separated from those of white students, schools for the black were referred to as “Jim Crow Schools” and received a noticeably less amount of consideration and funding compared to white schools.

"Colored" drinking fountain from mid-20th century

The legal system worked against all black citizens, the positions of police and judges were taken up by ex-confederate soldiers which made it almost impossible for African Americans to win any court systems and ensured the blacks all became victims of these black codes customs that promoted segregation. These laws dictated all aspects of a black individual's daily life including who may marry whom, who may live where, who may study where, who may work where, who may vote where, and who may travel how. They mainly consisted of developing “separate but equal” facilities to create a division between African Americans and their white counterparts, this included separate taxis, drinking fountains, prison cells, sports teams, bathrooms, and, as previously mentioned, schools.

Origin of Jim Crow


The character “Jim Crow” was once known as a popular folk trickster among black slaves but later turned into a term to describe racist segregation laws, rules, and customs. The name Jim Crow became an insult towards African Americans after Thomas D. Rice created a racist theatre character referred to as Jim Crow that gained quick success and popularity amongst whites.

Cover to early edition of Jump Jim Crow sheet music. Thomas D. Rice is pictured in his blackface role; he was performing at the Bowery Theatre (also known as the "American Theatre") at the time.

After this theatre character gained attention, the name became an offensive term aimed towards blacks and later became the name of the racial laws of segregation that took away rights from African Americans which were once granted to them through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments that freed millions of slaves, defined citizenship and protected voting rights.

After these amendments, white people felt that black individuals required more restriction and less freedom. They then created the Jim Crow laws and customs to outline when, where and how these newly freed slaves could work, created indentured servants out of the African Americans (practically made them slaves again), took away their voting rights, and controlled how or where they lived and traveled. The Jim Crow laws created an entire system based on segregation and enshrined African Americans as “second class” citizens.

Jim Crow Etiquette and Customs


Not only was Jim Crow a set of racist laws against African Americans, but it also included a particular set of etiquette and customs that outlined the appropriate interactions between blacks and whites as well as blacks with one another. This set of customs and etiquette would go so far as to say that blacks were expected to step aside for passing whites on the sidewalk. Other forms of etiquette that were given attention during this time included that blacks were only to be introduced to white individuals; meaning, a white should never be introduced to a black, whites should not use courtesy titles when referring to blacks (Mr., Mrs., Miss.), but blacks must use such titles when referring to whites as a sign of respect, if a car was being driven by a white person, they were given the right of way at intersections and if a black individual was in the vehicle with them, they had to sit in either the back seat or the trunk.

These Jim Crow laws and the Jim Crow customs were enforced through violence, both real violence and the threat of violence. Any blacks who violated Jim Crow laws and etiquette risked their property, jobs, freedom (the degree of which they had), and even their lives. It was evident that the Jim Crow laws stood to benefit white individuals.

The Jim Crow Coach


A “Jim Crow” coach was a separate train car that was specifically for African Americans. Within the slave states, slaves were required to ride in the Jim Crow car amongst other free black individuals when they had to travel somewhere with their owners. This isolated coach was meant to show the inferiority of one class of people over another. In these Jim Crow coaches, the trains were supposed to show equal treatment to both white and black people which created a "separate but equal" mentality. Everyone who rode the train was required to pay the same train fare in order to make everyone more equal. If Caucasian people received something; food, seating, washrooms, then black people must be able to obtain those things as well if they wished to. If black people did not receive equal treatment then whoever mistreated them, the conductor or server, could be charged.

There was a high degree of racism at this time causing black people to experience unjust treatment on these trains even with the implementation of these laws. For example, African American people were not allowed to leave the Jim Crow sections of the trains. However, white people were able to go wherever they pleased. Sometimes white people would use the Jim Crow car for their own space and many individuals would use it as a smoking car. The cars were dirty, and the conductor would often leave his stuff on a few of the seats in the Jim Crow coach. In the 1920s and 1930s, the black community was increasing in Tennessee and full-length Jim Crow coaches were being developed. Full-length Jim Crow cars were much longer and more spacious than the original Jim Crow sections on trains. Black individuals who refused to ride in the Jim Crow coaches were subject to violence and arrested immediately.

End of Jim Crow


The end of Jim Crow started after World War II in 1945 where a number of anti-segregation laws came into effect the following years due to an increase in civil right activities in black communities. By 1955 the Jim Crow laws were virtually no longer in effect.

Modern Tennessee (1901-1941)

Women's Suffrage Movement In Tennessee


The early 1900s was an era that saw many progressive reforms take root in Tennessee. One of the most notable reform movements that was the women suffrage movement of the early twentieth century.

Origins of the Suffrage Movement in Tennessee


The Women’s Suffrage Movement began in the United States prior to the Civil War, however it did not become prominent in Tennessee until many years later. An early appeal on behalf of the Women’s Suffragist Movement was made by Mrs. Napoleon Cromwell of Mississippi, at an address she made at the state democratic convention in 1876 in Nashville. Traditionally, women in Tennessee had been seen as “non-persons”, according to legal historian Agnes Thornton Bird. Thus, the Women’s Suffrage Movement had a slow beginning, with no equal suffrage societies forming within Tennessee until several years after Mrs. Cromwell’s speech.

In 1889, an equal suffrage society was founded in Memphis, and a second society started in Maryville in 1893. The end of the 1800s saw ten equal suffrage leagues forming in the state of Tennessee. A state convention for women suffragists was held in Nashville in 1897, and a second one was held in Memphis in April 1900. Following these conventions, support for the suffrage movement in Tennessee subsided.

Resurgence of the movement


In December 1906, an equal suffrage convention was held in Memphis. It was at this convention that the drive for women suffrage was reignited within Tennessee. Following the convention, an Equal Suffrage Association was formed in Memphis, and it would remain the only suffrage organization in Tennessee for the next four years. In 1910, a second Equal Suffrage League was organized in Knoxville, Tennessee, followed by leagues beginning in Nashville, Morristown and Chattanooga in 1911. The creation of these leagues symbolized the reemergence of the women’s suffrage movement. Rapid progress was made for the women’s suffrage movement after 1911 in Tennessee. Participation increased, with the number of leagues reaching more than seventy-five, with leagues having membership numbers into the hundreds, and for some, even into the thousands. To raise awareness and support for their cause, societies staged May Day demonstrations, which included a parade, followed by a rally consisting of speeches and resolutions. In addition to these demonstrations, other methods deployed by the societies included debates, social functions, and booths at fairs.

However, there was much opposition to the women’s suffrage movement within Tennessee. The Tennessee anti-suffrage organization was established, and though the organizations activities were limited, many individuals within the public shared their desertification with the woman’s movement. For example, John J. Vertrees, a Nashville lawyer, published a pamphlet expressing his views on the women’s movement. He wrote in his pamphlet that the majority of citizens within Tennessee, both men and women, did not want women to have the right to vote, and furthermore, it did not matter if woman wanted the right to vote, for it was more about what they ought to have than what they wanted. Despite harsh opposition, the women’s suffrage movement carried on in Tennessee.

Governmental Changes


The enfranchisement of women did not reach a governmental level in Tennessee until 1915. The general assembly made a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment conferring suffrage, however in order for the resolution to take effect, it had to pass in the 1917 legislature by a two-thirds majority, and then, had to withstand a state referendum. The difficulty of this process led suffragists to alter their strategy, opting to attempt to gain the right to vote in municipal elections and for presidential electors. This limited enfranchisement was more easily attainable because the legislature had the authority to grant this. In 1917, the bill passed house approved the bill, however senate did not approve it. In 1919, it reappeared in government and was passed on April 14th, 1919.

Tennessee Governor Albert H. Roberts (1868–1946) certifying the state's ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920. Memphis suffragist Charl Williams stands watching.

On June 4th, 1919, the federal women's suffrage amendment was submitted to the state legislature. However, before this amendment could become part of the United States Constitution, it had to receive approval in the state legislatures of thirty-six of the forty-eight states. By March 1920, thirty-five states had ratified the amendment. Many urged Tennessee Governor Albert H. Roberts to call a special session of the legislature to make Tennessee the thirty sixth state to ratify the amendment and thus, make it part of the United States Constitution. In August of 1920, Governor Roberts called a special session of the legislature that convened on August 9th, 1920. Following debate in the house and senate, the ratification passed on the Anthony Amendment, which was named after the writer of the amendment. On August 24th, 1920, Governor Roberts signed the certificate of ratification and mailed it to Washington. On August 26th, the Nineteenth amendment, giving women the right to vote, became part of the United States constitution, due in part, to Tennessee ratifying the legislation.

The 1918 Nashville Railway Disaster

The train wreck was one of the worst in American history.

On July 9th, 1918, just outside of Nashville, two passenger trains collided head-on resulting in America’s largest rail disaster ever. The westbound No. 4 train, having just picked up passengers in Nashville’s Union Station was headed towards Memphis. The eastbound train, No. 1, had been travelling from Memphis to Nashville.

The Crash


At the time, the No. 1 train had the right of way on the one-track travel lane into Nashville and should have forced the No. 4 train to wait on one of the multiple tracks just outside the station. However, the track operator had no record of the inbound train travelling from Memphis for that time of day1. The explanation was that the incoming train was running 35 minutes late.

With seemingly nothing to keep them back, the Memphis-bound train was given a green light to proceed, and accelerated out of the station, onto the single-lane track leaving the city. The operator hastily telegraphed the dispatcher to stop the train. With no direct communication to the Memphis-bound train, an emergency warning whistle was sounded. However, the train was out of earshot and kept up its pace into the turn of the track known as Dutchman’s Bend, or Dutchman’s Curve.

As both trains rounded their respective corners coming into the curve, the westbound train’s engineer spotted the Nashville-bound locomotive at the last moment and pulled the emergency brake. Unfortunately, with both engines moving at a top speed of 60 mph (100km/h), it was not enough. An enormous crash was heard, rocking the ground and splintering the wooden cars on the track.

The Aftermath


After clearing the rubble and mess, there were found to be 101 casualties and 171 injuries3. From these, the majority were travelling soldiers coming home from the fronts of the First World War. They also included many African American labourers from Tennessee and Arkansas who were leaving or returning to work at a munitions plant around Nashville. 5 crew members between both trains also perished.

The media was ridiculed after the disaster, accused of being overly dismissive of the crash. The disaster was front-page news for several days before eventually being forgotten. With World War I still being fought overseas, war stories were still the majority headline all across the United States. With this, the crash, as catastrophic as it was, was simply a sad distraction from the horrors of war being conducted in Europe. Since the majority of the dead were made of up minorities and labourers, with many bodies not able to be identified, the media dismissed the crash after several days. For example, Fair Play newspaper published in St. Genevieve, Missouri reports only 25 deaths and 40 injuries of the crash in their July 20, 1918 edition.

An investigation took place after the wreck, and the conclusion was that the crash came due to human error on behalf of the Memphis-bound train engineer, David Kennedy. A folded schedule was reported to be found under his body. It is debated whether or not Kennedy was aware of the other train, and whether or not he was attempting to reach the track switch at Harding Station, just a short ride west from the crash4. The other conductor, William Floyd was also killed, just one day before his retirement.

Education In Tennessee


Prior to the twentieth century, there was little belief in public education throughout the south. This was due to the widely held opinion that the poor did not need an education. There were two state-operated functioning schools systems, but both were inadequate and underfunded. The twentieth century brought about continued progress for the public school system in Tennessee. The Julius Rosenwald Fund, established by Rosenwald, a northern philanthropist, was established to aid in the construction of rural public schools for African American children. There was a lack of well-operated public schools in much of rural Tennessee, despite that the majority of the population lived in rural areas. African American children required separate schools, thus the accessibility and quality of their education suffered immensely. Black people struggled for decades, even centuries, to try and access education. Changes would begin in the late 1940s when African Americans would begin to fight for desegregation of the school system.

In 1907, an African American primary school in Franklin Tennessee burned down and a new one was built called the Franklin Coloured School. By 1911, there were 284 African American students who attended this school. Since this school was built for the black community, it was not built very well, with an unsteady structure that could not last long. Sixteen years had gone by before the Franklin Coloured School started deteriorating. When the kids and teachers who went to this school every day requested it be renovated, they got an addition instead, that was just as unsteady. This school always had absurd temperatures with little to no insolation and holes in the roof, walls, and floorboards. After a couple of decades, the Franklin Coloured School finally got replaced with a brick school that was much sturdier and is still standing.

Interracial Cooperation


In the early twentieth century, there were some individuals who tried advocating interracial cooperation. In 1918, a group called the Triangle of Peace was developed to instigate conversation between Caucasians and African Americans in Fisk University, Nashville. This group was created by the president of Fisk University, Fayette McKenzie. The Triangle of Peace vastly improved the connections between both communities. In fact, the group had such a significant impact on the University that it later created a Race Relations Institute to increase the awareness and continue the group’s legacy. Another example of individuals trying to decrease community racism was in 1932 when a school called Highlander Folk school was founded. The man who had the idea for this school was Myles Horton and he wanted to hire African American teachers. Horton believed that by hiring black employees, people may start to become more accepting of this race. He disagreed greatly with racism against African Americans and held meetings at the school to try and promote his cause. Horton had a major impact on Tennessee; however, since Tennessee is small, it did not go far out of the state.

Reform Schools


Boys reform schools were first implemented in 1911 within Tennessee. In 1932, white boys and black boys had a brief period of combined reformatories, where they were not separate. In 1934, they were divided again as racism was increasing and it was amongst the middle of the Jim Crow era. African American boys were treated very poorly, were required to do hard work in farming and mining, and they were also in extremely remote, rural areas where they were isolated from the rest of the world. The boys were treated especially poorly at The Training and Agricultural School for Coloured Boys. This reformatory school was located in Pikeville, Tennessee and was developed in the year 1918. Individuals were paid ten dollars if they brought back a black boy who had run away from the Agricultural School. This was a very good reward at the time.

The Scopes Trial

Proceedings from the Scopes Trial

In mid-July 1925 in the town of Dayton, Tennessee, a teacher named John T. Scopes was put on trial for teaching his students about the theory of evolution and human progression. Ironically, the General Assembly of Tennessee had just recently passed a bill that had forbidden any form of teaching that “denies the story of Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” This act was known as the Butler Act, named after the man who wrote it, John Washington Butler. The issue was such a controversial topic at the time that even The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stepped in on the matter, stating that the Butler Act was against the constitution and denied Scopes his rights. As a result of this, Butler was offered representation by the ACLU against the statute.

Early Stages of The Scopes Case


When the Scopes case was first introduced in July 1925, the ACLU defense team consisted of big name lawyers that had years of experience in the field. Names such as Clarence Darrow, John Randolph Neal, Arthur Garfield Hays, and Dudley Field Malone were extremely successful lawyers within the state of Tennessee, and wanted to represent Scopes to the fullest, meaning that things were finally starting to look up for John. The ACLU had created a strategy to appeal the final verdict, incase the court decided against them in determining the constitutionality of the Butler Act. The Scopes trial held a high amount of significance, not just at state level, but nationally also. The issue was widespread, as it highlighted problems that were happening all over the country. It was something that had never been covered in a courtroom, which made it a landmark case, furthermore setting a precedent for all future cases of the same matter. Questions were raised in the courtroom such as whether the law was clear enough that it was forbidden to ‘teach’ evolution or not, and if the trial against Scopes was actually an attempt to better the education system. Although all of these were extremely good points in Scopes’ favour, these issues were still not paid any attention to during the trial, as Judge Raulston decided that there would not be allowed any testimony that involves any sort of scientific meaning or definition in regards to evolution and its coherence with the Bible. The case mainly concentrated on John’s encroachment of the act.

The Verdict


The case of John Scopes came to an intense climax on July 20th, when Darrow called a member of the prosecution team by the name of William Jennings Bryan to the stand. Bryan was known as a Bible expert, and was extremely knowledgeable on the teachings and content provided in the book. Even though this was irrelevant to the case, Bryan was open and wanted to defend his own views and traditional beliefs against atheism. After his time on the stand, the Great Commoner stated how he did not believe that every text and passage in the Bible was meant to be taken literally, leaving his supporters greatly disappointed with his points and arguments. When court resumed on July 21, the jury had reached a verdict that John T Scopes was guilty of spreading anti-Christian beliefs in the school system, which had a negative and damaging impact on society. Judge Raulston charged Scopes with a minimum fine of one hundred dollars.

Societal Changes Following The Case


Five days later, Bryan passed away from natural causes. Although he was gone, his anti-evolution movement was only getting started. Bryan’s death didn’t just create more publicity for his movement, but also demonstrated that ideas like his could win court cases, giving his followers further motivation. During the following years, brand new anti-evolution bills were passed amongst the United States, however the position on whether biology in the school curriculum was allowed was still unclear to many. The majority of educators and school boards generally tended to stray away from the topic human biology, creating changes in the curriculum and school material. It was so serious that it even led publishers to remove the topic from their own textbooks to avoid any legal trouble.

The Appeal


In January of 1927, the ACLU decided to go ahead with their initial plan and appeal Scope’s conviction to the Supreme Court. The court ultimately decided that Scope did not violate anything from the constitution and nothing could not be seen as an attempt to establish religion. The court ultimately reversed the conviction and overturned all fines owed by Scope.

For the next four decades, The Butler Act remained a part of the statute, until it was abolished in 1967. Although it was gone, the scars still remained in the state, as people were afraid to voice their opinions and beliefs. Teachers still felt restricted and stuck to the old curriculum. For years to come, Tennessee was infamously known to outsiders as the place where the Scopes Trial took place.

The Great Depression and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

A carpenter working on Douglas Dam.

During the 1930s, many families lost everything, or almost everything, that they owned. At this time, there was an estimate of a third of Americans were out of employment. If an individual had a job, their working hours, as well as their pay, were significantly reduced. This was one of the worst periods of time that Americans had ever had to endure. In this financial depression, both the laboring people and the middle class were affected. In a small community in Tennessee River Valley, the effects of the depression did not have a major effect. This was due to the area already being impoverished. The Tennessee River Valley was dominantly a farming region; consisting of fifty-one percent farming families. Since the Valley was so poor, in 1933, the US Congress implemented the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA was to help the Valley control and use natural resources in the area. Between the TVA’s creation and the year 1941, there were seven dams built along the river in the area. This was a massive job and produced public attention across the country. The projects completed by the TVA showed the country and other countries that the government could control economic disadvantages and it gave hope to many people across the United States; especially since it was during the depression.

WWII and Post-War Tennessee (1942-present)

War Effort in Tennessee


America’s entrance into the allied war effort was marked by a national crisis. The events at Pearl Harbor brought America into the Second World War at a critical time, and on a large scale from coast-to-coast. Not to be overlooked are the contributions made by Tennesseans, both on the battlefields and on the home front. One of the lesser known ways Tennesseans helped the war effort was in the production of the atomic bomb at Oak Ridge.

Oak Ridge and Atomic Bomb Production


The first occurrence of atomic fission was in Germany in 1939 by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann. The bombardment of uranium atoms with neutrons resulted in an outcome unlike that of other elements. The nuclei of most elements change somewhat during neutron bombardment, but the nuclei change significantly with uranium, breaking approximately into two equal pieces. As a result of this process, massive amounts of energy were released and proof of a new energy source could be harnessed. Additionally, the process of fission under the right circumstances could result in a chain reaction leading to continuous emission of energy.

American governmental support to further research into uranium began in February of 1940, and by 1942, enough research had been demonstrated that a large scale bomb was possible. Concurrently, General Leslie Groves had approved Oak Ridge, Tennessee as a site to advance nuclear research and was established as the headquarters for the famous Manhattan Project.

Aerial view of the plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Oak Ridge was to become the home of the uranium enrichment, and pilot plutonium plants for the project. Located just west of Knoxville, Oak Ridge was tasked with producing the uranium isotope U-235, critical for the creation of an atomic bomb. The acquisition of 59,000 acres was considered necessary for the project and displaced approximately 1000 families in the region. The location was isolated enough to maintain its confidentiality while also providing enough of a labor force from Knoxville, a population of approximately 111,000. Oak Ridge was initially planned to have a residential population of 13,000, but by 1943 estimates, the population reached as high as 42,000. By the spring of 1945, the population had peaked at 75,000 people and by the end of World War Two, Oak Ridge was the fifth largest city in Tennessee and “was consuming one-seventh of all the power being produced in the nation”. At its peak, Oak Ridge employed 90,000 workers and had a cost of $1,106,393,00.

On July 25th, 1945, the last shipment of Uranium 235 left Oak Ridge becoming the bomb code named “Little Boy”. This bomb was dropped over the manufacturing city of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. It is estimated that 70,000 were killed instantly from the blast and estimates of the death toll five years later reached 200,000 due to radiation exposure. Three days after the detonation of "Little Boy", on the 9th of August, the plutonium bomb code named “Fatman” was dropped on Nagasaki killing approximately 40,000 people, with a death count reaching 140,000 by some estimates. The surrender of Japan came on August 14th, and the official ending World War Two came not long after on September 2nd, 1945. This solidified the beginning of the atomic age and placed the United States at the top as a nuclear superpower.

On the Home Front


Throughout World War Two, over 300,000 Tennesseans served in the armed forces. Over 5,731 Tennesseans lost their lives fighting for their country. Some notable Tennesseans to fight include General Frank Maxwell Andrews, who replaced Dwight D. Eisenhower as the commander of the United States European Theater of Operations. At the time of his death, he was ranked as Commanding General, the highest-ranking Ally to be killed. Others like General Clifton B. Cates and Henrietta Hickman Morgan fought in the Pacific theater with the Marines and the Navy, respectively.

Some of the training camps located in Tennessee included Camp Campbell, Camp Forrest, and at Camp Tyson. Furthermore, several small air bases across the state trained pilots. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers trained at these camps throughout the war and were also used to house thousands of Axis prisoners. Tennessee, like many other states, changed its industrial facilities to support the international war effort. Tennessee had been previously been considered a predominantly agricultural-based economy. During the war, this shifted to an industrial-based economy with the development of Oak Ridge. Factories in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis were also altered to help accommodate the production of war materials. Twenty nine completely new industries sprouted in Tennessee in just 1943, including companies like Rohm and Haas, which produced Plexiglas for airplanes. The rapid expansion of industrial work contributed to the broadening of labor supply. Women in the workplace increased all across America as a result of the war effort and their impact is not to be overlooked. During the War, “over six million women took wartime jobs in factories or farms, three million women volunteered with the Red Cross, and over 200,000 women served in the military." In Tennessee, hundreds of factories were now employing women, one example being the Vultee Aircraft Plant in Nashville where observation planes, dive bombers, and other fighters were built. Approximately one-third of the wartime employees in this plant were women. Another way Tennesseans contributed to the effort from home was in the creation of “Victory Gardens." These homegrown foods were either used to help minimize Tennesseans use of war rations or to be preserved and sent to the front lines. Typically female-dominated skills such as cooking, canning, preserving food, as well as sewing, proved incredibly important in supplying the essential goods for the war.

The war effort had changed the Tennessean, at home and abroad, resulting in a permanent change in how the Tennessean economy functioned. Supplying enough power to radically industrialize the state was a problem solved by new infrastructure. From 1940 to 1945, seven dams were constructed as well as a steam-powered generator to help meet the power needs of these factories. This influx of development changed the pattern of the traditionally agriculture-based economy before World War Two into an industrialized, manufacturing focused Tennessee post-war.

Medal of Honor Recipients

U.S. Army Medal of Honor

Of the 300,000 Tennesseans who served in World War II, around 5700 would never make it back to their home state. Six of these soldiers, however, distinguished themselves enough to be worthy of receiving the highest award the military has to offer: the medal of honor. Of these six, Charles H. Coolridge is the only surviving recipient as of 2019.

Charles H. Coolridge was born on August 4th, 1921 in Signal Mountain Tennessee. After being drafted into the U.S. army in 1942, he was first sent to Africa where he served for two years and then was moved to France in 1944 where he would earn his medal of honor. Coolridge was a machine gun operator whose orders were to hold a hill of strategic importance near the German border. As there was no officer present, Coolridge assumed command of the allied forces present, many of them being new recruits having never seen combat before. Over four days, the hill was attacked constantly by German forces trying to retake lost ground. Under Coolridges’ strong leadership they managed to hold the hill until the Germans attacked with tanks on the fourth day. Prior to the final attack, the Germans had attacked with almost no vigor or determination but that would change on October 27th. On this day the Germans made a strong push supported by two tanks and managed to partially breakthrough. In an attempt to stop the advance Coolridge crawled within 30 yards of one of the tanks and attempted to use a bazooka to destroy it. However, the bazooka malfunctioned leaving Coolridge in an extremely vulnerable position. He then held this position for a short time until calling for a retreat and conducting an extremely organized withdrawal with him being the last one to leave the hill. He was awarded the medal of honor for both his strong leadership and fighting as long as possible.

A second Tennessean to receive the medal of honor, Troy McGill was fighting in the Los Negros Islands off the coast of Papa New Guinea in March of 1944. On the morning of March, the 4th McGill and eight other men were defending a small ridge against Japanese forces. A group of 200 Japanese soldiers then attacked the ridge managing to kill or injure 6 of McGill’s men in the process. At this point, McGill ordered his final soldier to retreats stating that he would hold the ridge and give him time to escape. He then fired upon the enemy until he had ran out of ammunition and then waited for the enemy to approach. Once they were within 5 yards of his position he leapt from his foxhole and managed to club an enemy soldier to death with his rifle before being killed himself. He was 29. When allied forces retook the ridge they found 105 enemy soldiers littering the surrounding forest.

Elbert L. Kinser was born in the town of Greensville, Tennessee in October of 1922 and was enlisted into the marine corps in December of 1942. In 1943 he was deployed to the pacific front on the island of Okinawa. Kinser was in leading a rifle platoon when they found themselves engaged in a grenade battle with the enemy. One Japanese grenade was thrown into Kinser’s immediate area and in an attempt to save his men he threw himself on top of it. When the grenade detonated Kinser’s body took the brunt of the force from the explosion saving some of his men from also being hit but killing him in the process. He was 22. He was later posthumously awarded the medal of honor for sacrificing himself to save his men.

John Harlan Willis

John Harlan Willis was born in Columbia, Tennessee in June of 1921. Willis was a U.S. Navy medic and in the year 195 was deployed to the pacific front to fight on Iwo Jima. In the process of fighting, he was hit by shrapnel from a Japanese grenade and subsequently ordered to fall back into the field hospital to get treatment for his wounds. He chooses not to follow that order and instead remain on the frontlines treating his fellow soldiers. At this point in the battle, the Japanese started to attack his position with grenades and Willis began to throw them back before they detonated. Willis managed to throw back eight grenades successfully but the ninth grenade he attempted to throw back detonated in his hand killing him. He was 23. Willis was posthumously awarded the medal of honor for choosing to stay at the front and treat his fellow soldiers along with throwing back enemy grenades.

Raymond Cooley was a platoon guide fighting in the Philippine islands in February of 1944. He and his squad were ordered to attack two enemy machine-gun positions. Cooley advanced within 20 yards of an enemy machine gun nest and destroyed it by throwing a hand grenade into it. He then attempted the same thing on a different machine gun nest arming a handful of grenades to throw in. Six enemy combatants then rushed out towards him leaving him with a handful of armed grenades and nowhere to throw them. He then dove onto the armed grenades to save the friendly soldiers by his side. Miraculously he survived this ordeal but was severely wounded. Just two years after the end of the war he was suffering from crippling pain from these wounds and resorted to various substances to help him cope. He died at the age of 30 in a car accident while driving under the influence. The highway he died on was later changed to be named after him to honor what he did and the suffering he endured because of the wounds he got during the war.



Nashville and Country Music


Today, if the average person were to travel to Nashville, Tennessee they would find that it lives up to its name as the capital of country music. Additionally, Tennessee’s largest city is the destination where any aspiring country musician envisions their career taking off. In the last fifty years, the overall landscape of the city has completely changed to one of the most influential cities in the world for country music stars. Nashville has become a hotspot for tourism in Tennessee due to the emergence of the country music industry and the economic growth that is associated with a boom in the industry. Over 11 million people per year descend on Nashville to take in the sights and sounds of the talent-rich record labels and their signed artists. The decision by the record labels to centralize their main recording outlets to Nashville was the most important driver in initiating the growth of the city’s musical identity.

The 1990’s saw the growth of crossover artists, the people who turned country music from its stereotypical “hillbilly” nature into a mainstream popular genre of music, artists such as Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks, and another Tennessee born musician Billy Ray Cyrus with his hit song “Achy Breaky Heart” changed this perception of country music which has helped Nashville gain world notoriety and transform country into the largest growing genre in the United States . Nashville has embraced being the so-called “Music City USA” by taking a focus on tourism growth and opportunities. Nashville in the 1950s and '60s saw the beginnings of the country music movement when wealthy entrepreneurs believed that they could establish themselves as titans in the industry and created a so-called Music Row, an area in the 16-block downtown core with densely populated recording studios and performance spaces along with the budding business of agencies. These entrepreneurs can be credited with paving the way for today’s country music stars. In the early boom of country music, Fellow city, Branson, Missouri would piggyback off of the success in Nashville and Tennessee in general, attracting 4 million tourists per year while only having a population of four thousand. The evolution of country music in the Tennessee area is responsible for almost 15,000 local jobs and accounts for almost $6.4 billion in economic impact for the city. By 1995, there were 175 recording studios in the city and roughly 25,000 Nashvillians were employed in the music industry.

A large contributing factor to the growth of tourism in Nashville is linked to the racial passivity that Nashville’s music industry radiates. Nashville was a main site for civil rights movements in the 1960s and because of this, the city took advantage of government funding to gentrify some lower quality areas of the city. This action further hit the point that Nashville and the country music genre as a whole do not show any racial bias in the community. Nashville prides itself on creating music for “everyday folk” and not particularly exiling anyone from the community of fans of country music. While the exposure that the city offers to gain popularity was enough to draw in many artists to try and “make it”, the track record of Nashville in making self-employed artists wealthy also draws a big crowd. In 2003, self-employed Nashville performers accounted for $290.7 million in revenue. Additionally, outside of the self-employed performers, approximately $722 million is paid in wages annually to everyone working in the music industry with the lowest average annual salary sitting at $40,000, a livable American wage. Gaylord entertainment company is the most influential tourism music business in Nashville and owns many different iconic parts of country music lore including the Grand Ole Opry, Opryland and other hotels. This company is responsible for $1.8 billion in the Nashville economy.

Furthermore, the industry of country music has also birthed many different businesses that draw many different consumers to the area such as souvenir shops, organized group tours and travel packages that intertwine the country music experience with other core tourist businesses. The birth of many local businesses was dependent on this type of traveller and the market for such locations has never been in higher demand. For instance, the Wildhorse Saloon is a 3,300 sq. ft bar in downtown Nashville that remains operational due to the country music industry, partnering with many different artists to offer frequent performances and an overall environment that is welcoming to visitors. Likewise, the Country Music Hall of Fame also draws tourists who want to see the rich history of the industry and city in general. Those who visit the museum can see inside what a real recording studio looks like. Finally, the Grand Ole Opry is a staple in the history of country music dating back all the way to 1927. The Opry still broadcasts live every Friday and Saturday night and has even become so influential that The Nashville Network television station was created to keep up with the demand for the Opry show. The 4,400-seat venue is the pinnacle of country music in the area. Overall the city of Nashville has catered to the casual and intense country music fan by offering all ranges of experiences to any tourist visiting the city. Whether the traveler wants to go to the downtown core and visit some bars and nightclubs with performances from the approximately 20,000 members of the country music industry or they want to fully immerse themselves by taking tours of the Country Music Hall of Fame, catching a radio show at the Grand Ole Opry or travelling down Music Row to get an idea of the stranglehold country has on the city. Nashville has a booming tourism sector and they have the ever-growing popularity of country music to thank.



Located in southwestern Tennessee, Memphis is Tennessee’s second-largest city and a major source for tourism within the state. Memphis’ unique location as a crossroads situated on the Mississippi River and the in the middle of several important locations such as St. Louis and Chicago in the north, Texas in the west and New Orleans in the south means Memphis has historically been a major hub for visitors passing through or venturing into the city. Furthermore, Memphis has a geographical advantage by being located within a 12-hour drive from 70 percent of the American population. This proximity to a wide range of Americans benefits the city as tourism trends show people aged between 18 and 24 opt to take shorter, more frequent trips to locations closer to home than their parents before them. For these reasons, it is clear that due to its geography and location, Memphis always had the potential to be a tourism powerhouse, not just within Tennessee, but also within the country.

Historically, Memphis’ large African American population has led to complex inter-racial relations that have greatly impacted the history, music, and culture of the city. After all, it is here at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot and killed. The site is now the National Civil Rights Museum, displaying artifacts from the civil rights movement holding pieces from as early as the famous underground railroad. African Americans were also vital in establishing the blues, rock n roll, and soul scene in Memphis, and it is here where acts such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin, Booker T and more got their big break with STAX records. Currently, the 17,000 square ft STAX museum resides on the original site of the legendary STAX record company and contains over 200 artifacts from their extraordinary musicians. With such a large impact on such an important city, it is easy to see how thousands of African Americans each year make the pilgrimage to Memphis as part of what has become known as an African-American tourist network.

Mephis Tennessee higlighted

Music is another driver of tourism in Memphis, especially since so-called “music tourism” is a rapidly growing subsector of the tourism industry. The previously mentioned blues, rock n roll, and soul have all been influenced by Memphis in one way or another. Historically, Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio brought fame to many acts including the likes of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Elvis Presley. Music in Memphis is very versatile, signposts are located at appropriate points for educational purposes, relevant academic debates. As for leisure, Memphis is home to six major music festivals. The Memphis in May festival, in particular, is a one-month long celebration in May that salutes Memphis music, people and food at Tommy Lee Park on the Mississippi River. Barbeque is king in Memphis with regards to food, with many back alley and hole in the wall restaurants serving up classic southern staples such as ribs, fried chicken, catfish and more. However, the largest of all the Memphis festivals is Elvis Week which attracts 75,000 visitors to the city. Elvis Presley has had an unparalleled influence on the city of Memphis with 700,000 people annually visiting his 14 acre Graceland estate, making it the second most-visited house in the country behind only the White House. The land itself was purchased by Elvis for $100,000 in 1957 at the age of 22 and is located in one of Memphis’ most prestigious neighborhoods. Elvis purchased the land for his family and friends and often sought refuge on the estate. In 2006, Graceland was made a national historic landmark, and it’s contribution to the Memphis economy is estimated to be around 300-400 million USD per year creating an extra 4,000 to 6,000 jobs in the local economy.

Beale Street in Memphis is another massive tourist destination in the city. Originally located in a largely African American neighborhood, Beale Street was deemed undesirable and was rebuilt in the late 1970s and 1980s, the once discarded street is now a national historic landmark. While these changes brought vitality back into the area, the impoverished residents were displaced due to residential property dynamics, meaning many African American residents that have historically called the neighborhood home, were now forced to relocate due to the gentrification spurred by the urban renewal and cultural tourism projects. However, seeing an estimated 4.2 million visitors annually, Beale Street is currently the second most visited street in America trailing only Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Some attractions located on Beale Street include the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, the FedEx Forum and BB King Blues Bar, among others. Additional key sites in Memphis include the Memphis Zoo, home to over 400 animals and filled with Egyptian decorations and the Peabody Hotel. The Peabody Hotel is famous for it’s 5 mallard ducks that march down a red carpet from the elevator to the lobby’s Italian marble fountain every day at 11:00 a.m., where they play to music by John Philip Sousa until 5:00 p.m., when they waddle back on the carpet to the elevator and are escorted to their penthouse suite. The Memphis Pyramid is another iconic building in the city, towering 32 stories and facing the Mississippi River. Originally built as an arena, in 2015, the building was repurposed as a Bass Pro Shops Megastore.

Overall, Memphis sees an average of 9 million tourists annually, which brings $2.5 billion USD into the city’s economy. Roughly 49,300 jobs were attributed to tourism in the Memphis metropolitan area, around 11 percent of the population (currently estimated to be approximately 680,000). Furthermore, when considering Memphis’ history, geography, and culture and comparing current and projected tourism trends, it is clear that Memphis will continue to be a tourism powerhouse, not just for the state of Tennessee, but also nationally.

Civil Rights Protests and Actions


The Civil Rights Movement took place in the United States beginning in the late 1940s and continued until the end of the 1960s. The goal of the movement was to fight against the racial segregation and discrimination that African Americans faced across the country, but specifically in the southern states that had been a part of the Confederacy in the mid and late 1800s. Tennessee had been a part of the Confederacy, and racial discrimination was still very much part of everyday life in Tennessee. People who were black were not allowed to fully participate in society. Public facilities, such as restaurants, parks or theaters in some cases did not allow blacks inside, and if they were, these groups were confined to special areas. On public transportation, they had to ride at the back, and if the white-only seats became full, they must yield their seat to white citizens. Following World War II, where African Americans fought against fascism and for freedom, many were very discontent with a life of inequality. Thus, African Americans began to try and change the laws which restricted their freedom, and the civil rights movement was born. Tennessee was at the forefront of this movement.

February 25th 1946


One of the first postwar outbreaks of violence requiring legal defense was that of the residents of Columbia, Tennessee on February 25th, 1946. The violence sprung from a fistfight between two WWII veterans: one black and one white. The fistfight caused the violence to spread, gathering a mob of whites seeking to ransack the black neighborhood and business district. The black neighborhood armed itself and warned whites not to enter. Four white policemen entered anyway after noticing several streetlights were shot out, causing them to be shot down by African Americans in the neighborhood. A fight ensued, eventually, the Governor was forced to call on the national guard to break up the festivities. Twenty-five black men were charged as a result. Looby and colleagues defended twenty-three African Americans in litigation, winning acquittals for all of them.

Influence of the Highlander Folk School (1950-61)


The Highlander Folk School, founded in 1932 in Monteagle, Tennessee, was originally focused on labor relations until volatile race relations prompted a shift toward issues of segregation in 1950. Before then, Highlander concentrated on organizing and training the unemployed and working people through workshops to help ordinary people gain knowledge. Strained state relations after WWII brought allegations that the center was spreading communism across the south. The founder and many school allies denied the claim. Highlander soon realized that the labor movement required confronting racism and segregation, which prompted opposition leaders to campaign against Highlander and name it a communist school in an effort to shut it down. Almost a year before Brown vs. The Board of Education, Highlander was holding workshops to prepare for school integration.

In 1954, Septima Clark, known as Queen mother of the Civil Rights Movement, attended Highlander and joined in discussions regarding the inability of African Americans to vote due to voting law restrictions requiring voters to pass so-called literacy tests. Then in 1955, Rosa Parks attended desegregation workshops at Highlander, which may have empowered her to take a stand against segregated bus laws. Highlander later hired Septima Clark to direct the integration workshops. When Clinton High School struggled to integrate their schools, she brought the African American students to Highlander for a weekend retreat. The Georgia Education Commission criticized Highlander's 25th anniversary Labor Day celebration claiming that the school was communist. A school raid in 1959 resulted in four staff members being charged with possession of alcohol, drunkenness, and resisting arrest. Highlander didn't flinch and instead began a Youth Project where white and black students participated in sessions about school integration.

Then, in 1961, the Tennessee Supreme Court revoked Highlander's charter and ordered that the school be closed.

Impact of Brown v. Board of Education (1954)


This landmark decision declared segregation in schools to be unconstitutional. Under the leadership of Governor Earl Warren, the Supreme Court determined that separate educational facilities were unequal and that the “separate but equal” doctrine had no place in public education. Segregationists across Tennessee condemned the decision, but Tennessee officials were not willing to do the same. Officials, such as Mayor Ben West, were described to display “stoic acceptance” of the decision. In September 1955, a new lawsuit was brought forth, to enforce integration at Tennessee schools. Alfred Z. Kelley, a Tennessee father, filed a class-action suit, Robert W. Kelley et al., v. Board of Education of Nashville, demanding open admission to high schools on behalf of his son, Robert W. Kelley. The plaintiffs won, causing the Nashville Plan to come to fruition. The Nashville Plan called for the desegregation of one grade per year, beginning with the first grade in 1957.

Registration of Black Voters


Ever since the late 1800s, black voters in the South found a number of barriers to voting, including grandfather clauses, poll taxes, literacy tests, and understanding clauses. Tennessee stood out as one southern state with fewer barriers placed on African American voters. In the 1940s and 1950s, African Americans in Memphis and Nashville had begun facilitating voter registration drives, often backed by public officials. Tennessee also repealed the poll tax in 1953, ahead of federal civil rights legislation. Tennessee bragged a 62.7% registration rate of their African American voters by 1958.

Tent City

Negro tent camp - NARA - 281472

Despite Tennessee’s record of positive voting registration among the black community, two counties stood in stark contrast. Haywood and Fayette counties, both with large black populations, faced legal action from the Eisenhower administration to grant the people access to vote. When black citizens presented themselves to register to vote, local officials responded by declining to extend credits and called in their loans. Soon, about 700 sharecropping families found themselves homeless and living in what became known as Tent City. Tent City drew sympathy from out-of-state, with several organizations demanding justice for the Haywood and Fayette citizens.

1960 Sit-Ins


In early 1960 in North Carolina, four black students staged a sit-in to protest segregation at a lunch counter in downtown Greensboro. The trend of sit-ins spread across the south, many of them experiencing success in Tennessee. Students from Knoxville College planned their own sit-ins at lunch counters in the city. Executives from the counters explained that the counters could not be desegregated without approval from their head office. In an unprecedented move, Mayor John Duncan, along with two students and two members of the city’s chamber of commerce, went to New York to confront head office executives on the issue of desegregation. Sit-ins began in Memphis in the spring of 1960. Black students from LeMoyne College targeted public libraries rather than lunch counters. By early summer, both lunch counters and public libraries were desegregated in Tennessee.

End of Segregation


With the end of World War II, the increase of civil rights activities within black communities was at an all-time high. This increase would later be to thank for the abolition of the Jim Crow laws that gave permission to whites to segregate African Americans. A number of important dates, movements, and people contributed to the removal of these laws and they all came alongside the Civil Rights Movement. Notable contributions include: - In 1948, President Harry Truman ordered integration in the military. - In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that educational segregation was unconstitutional.

- In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act that led to the end of the legal discrimination and segregation that had been created by the Jim Crow laws.

Lyndon Johnson signing Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964

- In 1965, the Voting Rights Act ended any efforts that had been made to keep minorities from voting, this included African Americans. - In 1968, the Fair Housing Act ended discrimination in renting and selling homes. With the help of these civil rights movements, the Jim Crow laws and customs were no longer in legal action.

The Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern, 1964

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray on Thursday, April 4, 1968, in Memphis Tennessee.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Christian Minister, founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a social advocate who became the most prominent leader of the civil rights movement in the United States of America. Through the efforts of non-violent protests and inspirational speeches, Dr. King helped abolish the legal segregation of African Americans in the south and other parts of the United States. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most well-known civil rights activists until his assassination by James Earl Ray on Thursday, April 4, 1968, in Memphis Tennessee.

While standing on the second-floor balcony of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee, King was wounded by a gunshot at 6:01 pm. By 6:15 pm, unconscious King arrived at St. Joseph Hospital, where he was given oxygen and a blood transfusion as he had a palpable heartbeat and radial pulse. Shortly after his arrival, his breathing stopped and doctors performed a tracheotomy. Following this procedure, King’s cardiac monitor indicated a little to no heart function, so doctors injected him with intracardiac adrenaline and began cardiac massage. Due to the total loss of spinal cord fluid in his lower neck, lack of vital signs and heart function, King was proclaimed dead at 7:05 pm by general surgeon Dr. Jerry Barrasso.

Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee

An autopsy was performed by Shelby County Medical examiner Dr. Jerry T. Francisco at 10:45 pm on the day of his death. The findings from the autopsy were submitted and became a public document under Tennessee law, on April 11, 1968. Following this submission, many critics of the investigation questioned the accuracy and thoroughness of the report. To address these concerns, a panel of expert forensic pathologists were convened by the committee to review the treatment that Dr. King received and the procedures and conclusions that were made in the autopsy report. The panel extensively analyzed the report and all relevant evidence that pertained to the assassination. It was concluded that the initial findings from the first autopsy were generally accurate and that King died from a single gunshot wound caused by a bullet that entered the right side of the face approximately an inch to the right and a half-inch below the mouth.

James Earl Ray poster

Fifteen days after King’s assassination, his murder was identified by three latent fingerprints that were found at the crime scene. His murderer's name was James Earl Ray, an escaped convict who was serving a life sentence for robbery at the Missouri State Penitentiary. Ray fired the gunshot from the bathroom window at the back of a rooming-house at 422 ½ South Street in Memphis. There was substantial evidence that confirmed Ray's actions and he pleaded guilty for the assassination of King. Ray was sentenced to 99 years at the state penitentiary.

Martin Luther King traveled to Memphis following the tragic death of two African-American sanitation workers. The incident took place on February 1, 1968, when the two workers were killed in the back of a garbage truck due to a malfunction in the truck’s compactor as they were trying to seek shelter from the rain. The death of these two men ignited protests and violent riots as their fellow workers demanded better working conditions, an increase in wages, and acknowledgment of their union. Before his assassination, King journeyed to Memphis to make plans for a peaceful march in support of this cause. Once news broke out the assassination of Martin Luther King, an intensive manhunt was conducted in the city of Memphis. Many cities around the country also broke out in violence, and many national leaders including President Lyndon Johnson had to urge the nation to remain calm and refrain from acting out in violence.

King’s funeral was held on April 9, 1968, in Atlanta Georgia. More than 50,000 people from all around the country made their way into the state to say their final farewells to their fallen heroes. Many institutions like banks, schools, and stores were closed to honor King, and the Mayor of Atlanta also declared that this day would be called “Black Tuesday,” an official mourning day for the city. The funeral began at 10:30 am Eastern Standard time, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This service was private and only limited to family, members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, distinguished guests, and members of the congregation. A public service was also held at 2:00 pm at Morehouse College. Both services were broadcasted on the radio and on television on three national networks. A peaceful march was held and mourners walked a 3 ½ mile route throughout downtown Atlanta starting at the church where the private service was held.

Tennessee's Notable Figures In the Civil Rights Movement


Maxine Smith


Smith was denied entry into the all-white Memphis State University in 1957. Smith consequently sued the university, and, two years later was credited with paving the way for integration at the university. In 1959, the first African-American students, known as the Memphis Eight, enrolled at the university. Smith was at the forefront of educational integration in Memphis, as the executive secretary of the Memphis branch of the NAACP. Maxine Smith would later serve as the first African American on the Board of Education and serve two terms as their President.

Alexander Looby and Avon N. Williams Jr.


This pair was the most prominent civil rights attorneys in the post-war era. With the exception of a few, Looby and Williams Jr. undertook dozens of lawsuits targeting racism in Tennessee. Looby and Williams Jr. championed school desegregation, as well as racial discrimination in employment and public accommodations. The two attorneys worked very hard to clear a host of students who had been charged and wrongfully arrested because they were taking part in the Nashville sit-ins to protest the racial segregation in the state of Tennessee. Due to the work that Alexander Looby did working with the students who participated in the sit-ins, on the morning of April 19, 1960, Alexander Looby's house was bombed and destroyed in a racially motivated attack. Looby and his wife were in the house sleeping at the time but were left unharmed, the police were not able to find the suspects who committed the racially motivated attack. Looby had a very impressive political and law career, and he used his positions to fight for racial rights and desegregation.

Shift from Democratic to Republican Dominance


Today, the Republican Party is the dominant political party in the Southern United States, and Tennessee is not an exception to this. However, it was not always this way, as prior to the 1960s, the South was better known as a Democrat stronghold. In 1863, when Abraham Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation, and abolished slavery in the United States of America, he was a member of the Republican Party.

Early Rise of The Democratic Party

Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater

The Democratic Party, after the “Reconstruction” ended in 1877, was originally intended to be a party focused on maintaining as much of the countries past traditions. These traditions typically meant maintaining white supremacy and disenfranchising the newly freed African-Americans. Due to this stance on the racial divide, the Southern states were an overwhelmingly Democratic stronghold, and this lasted for almost a century, slowly beginning to change in the 1950s and 1960s. This may seem odd, seeing as the Republican Party today is widely associated with the Southern states and white America, but there was a time when a Southerner would never consider supporting the party of Abraham Lincoln. The question that therefore arises, is what occurred during the 1960s that led to such a dramatic switch in Southern and Tennessee support from the Democrat Party to the Republican Party, and has led to Republican dominance that has lasted to this day.  

The Southern United States during the 20th century is often associated with racial divide, stemming from the decision of the 11 states that seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy in an attempt to fight the abolishment of slavery. Tennessee is of course one of these states and therefore has also found the historical political support of it’s people closely tied to the division of race. This principle can be seen as the shift from Democratic to Republican support in the South began in the year 1964, which is notable for multiple reasons, first and foremost being the year in which the Civil Rights Act was instituted. The year 1964 was also the first presidential election in which the Democratic Party actively brought African-Americans into the race, and also coincided with the Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, publicly alienating African-Americans with “implicitly racial comments”. These factors led to an opposite movement of support for the two parties as African-American support for the Democrat’s jumped in 1964 while the white population’s support for the Democrat’s fell to nearly 20% by the year 1972.

The Southern Strategy


The Republican Party continued to change the narrative on which party the Southern population would give their support to, as in 1968, Richard Nixon’s administration embarked upon a “Southern Strategy” aimed to increase Republican support in the South. The “Southern Strategy” was focused on the opposition of desegregation of school’s that had begun after the Brown v Board of Education (1954) decision by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the segregation of public schools by race was unconstitutional. After this decision, in 1968, the executive branch of the government, led by Richard Nixon, decided to get involved in the public education of the country as he viewed it as a way to gain a political advantage. The “Southern Strategy” has further been used to some extent by other presidents such as Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

The strategy thus far has been a resounding success in the South at not just shifting the region from a Democratic to a Republican stronghold, but also in maintaining this hold to the present day. Tennessee specifically voting for a Republican candidate 10 out of the 13 general elections held since the implementation of the “Southern Strategy” in 1968. Only 3 out of the last 13 general elections saw Tennessee supporting a Democratic candidate, these elections taking place in 1976, 1992, and 1996, and it is interesting to note that Tennessee supported the Democratic candidate in two straight elections, both being Bill Clinton. Despite the world being much more accepting and desegregated today, it is clear to see that a deep divide between races in Tennessee and the rest of the South rooted in long past prejudices have a strong and lasting impact on the politics of today. The party that was at one time the champion of the emancipation proclamation and the furthest party from consideration for most of the South and Tennessee, turned into the champion of segregation and white supremacy in the early 1960s.   

Post-War Economic Changes and Development


Tennessee played a large role in World War II and took pride in it. They sent out 300,000 soldiers but they had a few military bases, namely airfield grounds. The war forced Tennessee to switch up their way of life and adopt the industrial lifestyle, to move from farming to factories. Once the war was over, Tennessee continued this culture and improved on it. With all the mass immigrations the population rose and helped shape the economy and state we see today.

Population Growth


In early 1946 Tennessee had fully reconverted from the war and began seeing major changes to their state. There were massive population increases in various cities and counties around Tennessee. Shelby County saw their population increase from 358,000 – 482,000 1940-1950. Many other cities experienced these population growths which created expansion. The biggest impact of the war was that it accelerated the expansion of the state's industry. Before the war, Tennessee had been hit hard with floods and poverty. However, the new industries and businesses created from the war had brought prosperity and along came people. Tennessee saw its lowest migration patterns between 1940 and 1950 since the depression. Meaning very few people left the state while many migrated into it.

Industrial Affect


Before the war, Tennessee was in the beginning stages of transitioning from mainly an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. The war had a huge role in helping this transition. During the war, they couldn’t have everyone farming as they needed workers to make whatever the army needed, like guns, ammo, and planes. This pushed Tennessee’s culture to become more industrial and move away from agriculture. Between the years of 1940 to 1950, they lost 256,000 in farm population, by 1960 the farm population decreased to 560,000 compared to 1,272,000 in 1940. The changes in industries were just as crazy. “Charles Foreman forecasted 50-60% increase post-war employment over 1940”. They created a lot more plants and extensions, the industries doubled. Employment in the manufacturing sector increased by 22,000 from 1940 to 1953. By 1953 there were more than 800 plants in Memphis compared to just 400 in 1940. Their manufacturing and production sector had 2 billion dollars in 1947, which doubles Tennessee pre-war. They spent 1.75 million dollars investing in 700 new industries between the years of 1945 and 1948. All this new business made the economy begin to flourish but also pushed the development of the state. Dams were built to help create enough energy for increased factory production. The TVA built 16 dams between 1933 to 1944, in order to create enough electricity to support the factories, paving the way for post-war industrialization. In 1946 they began building pipelines to help maintain the increased population and number of factories. This is the foundation for the development of Tennessee that we see today.

Wage and Income Increases


World War II changed a lot of things for a lot of people, whether they liked it or not. Sending 300,000 people overseas to go to war, not only depletes the population but also affects the families of the soldiers. With the war lasting as long as it did, the people who survived missed a lot. Many of the soldiers were young men who would be in college, that’s when they made the GI bill of rights. It was made for the reemployment of veterans as well as lower interest rates and education. It worked very well for veterans, in 1944 95% of war veterans found jobs. UT (University of Tennessee) at one point had 8,700 students of those students 5,000 were veterans. Veterans were not the only ones helped by the end of the war. Personal income saw huge increases, in 1940 it was at 650 million in total this increased to over two billion in 1950. Per capita, personal income went from an annual income of 339 in 1940 to 994 in 1950. Men saw hourly wages increase by 52% and women 57% from 1939 to 1944. Women’s employment really began because of the wars but after World War II it really began. Nashville’s women employment increased by 49% in 1945 since 1940.

Oak Ridge


In World War II, the government was doing research on very radioactive and dangerous chemicals, in order to build what would be known as the atomic bomb. First, they needed an area for this, that area is Oak Ridge, and Monsanto ran it. Once the war ended the government decided to decline Monsanto’s contract to keep them in charge and instead turned the space into a biology research center. They studied the best ways of detecting radiation, photosynthesis experiments on how energy is transferred and much more. They brought scientists from around the world to work in the area, however, they had problems with the area not being too caring about biology. Hollaender the main scientist in charge really turned that around. In 1949, 220 people from out of town came to their biology information meetings held by Hollaender, and the meetings only grew in popularity.

Oak Ridge



Tennessee has a rich history when it comes to sports. Tennessee is home to 3 major sports franchises, the Nashville Predators of the NHL, the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA, and the Tennessee Titans in the NFL. They are also home to many secondary leagues in soccer, baseball and other sports and are home to many college sports team including the Tennessee Volunteers and the Vanderbilt Commodores. There will also be a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in Nashville in the 2020 season.

The Nashville Predators have played in the National Hockey League since the 1998-1999 season. They have had two coaches in their team history, Barry Trotz from 1998-2014, and Peter Lavilotte from 2014-present. They have had seven captains in team history, their current one being defenseman Roman Josi. They have had a history of developing good defenceman in their organization, including Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mathias Ekhlom, and former captains Shea Weber (the current captain of the Montreal Canadiens) and Kimmo Timonnen. P.K Subban also use to play for the Predators before being traded to the Devils in the 2019 off-season. They have been a perennial playoff team, lead by their defense and goaltender Pekka Rinne. Their franchise leading point scorer is David Legwand, with 210 goals and 356 assists for 556 points. Legwand also has the most games played in team history. Rinne leads all goaltenders in team history in wins with 347, more than double Thomas Vokoun who is second with 160 wins. Their General Manager since their inception in the 90s has been David Poile who became the winningest coach in league history when he recorded his 1320th win as a general manager. The Predators have one Stanley Cup finals appearance, which occurred back in the 2016-17 season, but they ultimately lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Thus they are still seeking their first championship to this day.

The Memphis Grizzlies, formerly the Vancouver Grizzlies have been an NBA franchise since 1995, but have been located in Memphis since 2001. They have had 6 general managers in team history, the first being Stu Jackson, and their current GM being Jason Wexler. They have also had 13 different head coaches in team history, with the first being Brian Winters and the current one being Taylor Jenkins. They have made it to the playoffs on 10 different occasions in team history, including 7 consecutive appearances from 2010 to 2017. In the 2012-2013 season, they made it to the Western Conference Finals, but got swept in 4 games by the San Antonio Spurs. They were lead by several key players that year including Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Conley hold the franchise record in points and assists were Gasol holds the franchise record for minutes played and rebounds. Following the 2017 season, the Grizzlies began to decline as their key players aged, and they rapidly fell down the standings. They eventually traded both Gasol and Conley. In the 2019 NBA draft, they had the second overall pick, selecting point guard Ja Morant. With Morant and a young core behind them, the Grizzlies are poised to once again contend for a playoff spot.

The Tennessee Titans, formerly known as the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Oilers, have been around since the 1960s. They played in the American Football league, and won the first two league titles, but joined the National Football League as part of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Despite winning those two league titles, they have yet to win a Super Bowl and thus have yet to win an NFL Championship. They now compete in the AFC South division. They have had 18 head coaches in team history, the first being Lou Rymkus, and the current one being Mike Vrabel. There most winningest coach however, is Jeff Fischer, with 142 career wins as head coach. There franchise passing leader in passing yards and touchdowns is quarterback Warren Moon who played for the Titans for nearly a decade between 1984 and 1993. There franchise leader in rushing yards is Eddie George, with over 10,000. Ernest Givins is the franchise leader in receiving yards with nearly 8,000, most of those receptions were throws from Moon, whom he played with for the majority of his time with the Titans. Despite not winning a Super Bowl, the Titans came awfully close in 2001, when they competed in the Super Bowl against the St. Louis Rams. they were led by quarterback Steve McNair to a 13-3 record in the regular season, but ultimately lost in the finals by a score of 23-16. The Titans have not made the playoffs since 2017, but are on the bubble of making it this season.

Steve McNair, former quarterback for the Titans

Tennessee is also home to the college sports rivalry of Vanderbilt and the Tennessee Volunteers. This rivalry is predominantly in college football, where the two teams have met over 112 times, dating as far back as to 1892. They are both founding members of the Southeastern Conference. Tennessee leads the all-time series with a record of 75-33-5, although Vanderbilt has won their last three meetings against Tennessee. The two teams have played in some very notable games against one another, including a scoreless tie in the 1930s. Another well-known game in the rivalry when Jay Cutler lead the Commodores to a victory over Tennessee, snapping a 23 year losing streak against the Volunteers. The history between the two teams is some of the richest in all of college sports. Tennessee has a rich sports history in general. They have 3 major sports teams in the Nashville Predators of the NHL, the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA and the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, They are also home to the college sports rivalry of the Vanderbilt Commodores and Tennessee Volunteers. While none of their 3 major sports team has yet to win a championship in their respective leagues, the Titans, Grizzlies and Predators continue to be competitive teams in search of those championships.

Tennessee in US Popular Culture (1795-present)



Nashville is the capital of Tennessee. It is home to places like Tootsies and The Grand Ole Opry. These famous locations are where multiple performers have found success through meeting industry executives who had seen them perform. The city is full of these ‘lucky encounter’ stories that have launched the careers of many artists in the music industry.

Tootsies Orchid Lounge in Nashville

With a small-town atmosphere, many musicians make Nashville the central place to create. The open environment, and willingness to experiment with art has consistently drawn people to not only the city of Nashville, but the state of Tennessee itself. Nashville was the foundation for country music through the development of radio in the early 1920’s. In 1925 a local Nashville company began the WSM radio station as a means of self-promotional advertisements. The Nashville station included a weekly show called the “Barn Dance”, which gained success and eventually transformed into the extremely famous Grand Ole Opry. This is when musicians began traveling to Nashville in hopes of success. Record labels and music companies started to establish an industry, and the constant search for new musical talent was emerging. Nashville even hosts the annual Country Music Awards to celebrate the achievements of the musicians performing country music. The music business was quickly developing, and so was the success of many performers. Musicians began pouring out hit records achieving attention around the United States.

Dolly Parton

Country music legend Dolly Parton on stage at the Grand Ole Opry during a live broadcast in Nashville, Tenn., on April 23, 2005

Dolly Parton was one of the many famous performers from Tennessee. Born in 1946, she grew up to become one of the most well-known American performers. Dolly emerged onto the music scene in Nashville in 1964. Taking inspiration from Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline, she was able to appeal to working-class women in rural America in an industry that was very much dominated by men. Parton was able to create a country-pop crossover giving her huge mainstream appeal, becoming the biggest name in the music business. She gained success through her multiple hits like “9 to 5” and “Jolene”. Dolly Parton was most well known for her country records that were constantly played on the radio, and for her positive outlook on life. The singer was recognized for her unique catchy song writing and vocals, establishing her creative base within Nashville. She also acted in multiple movies, achieving fame throughout the United States, as well as internationally. She was dubbed the “girl-singer” and paved the way for other country-pop female singers such as Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. Along with her many talents, Dolly Parton was also a smart business woman. In 1980, the popular singer became interested in the idea of her own amusement park. The Dollywood theme park opened in 1986, gaining immediate popularity through her many fans. The amusement park featured different rides all named after the singer's hit songs, along with multiple forms of Dolly Parton merchandise. Dollywood is still open today and is the most popular tourist attraction in Tennessee, receiving over two million visitors each year.

The Grand Ole Opry

Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Tennessee

The Grand Ole Opry was a radio show that is considered to have made country music famous in Tennessee. George Hay, a radio announcer from Indiana, started a radio series called the 'Barn Dance', inspired by country hoedowns he had attended. The series consisted of broadcasted live performances from various local country artists. Hay was hired by Tennessee WSM radio station in 1925, and was given an hour segment in which he brought the structure of his Barn Dance series, giving it the name The Grand Ole Opry. The program quickly rose in popularity, partially due to the constraints of the Great Depression making radio the dominant medium for country music. In 1934, the well established program went on to open its own booking agency called the Artist Service Bureau, which scheduled tours for their artists and further expanded the exposure and popularity of country music. By 1940, artists of the Grand Ole Opry were being booked in fifteen states and in more than 2,500 cities and towns. Nashville was dubbed Music City U.S.A for the first time on the radio station, with the city still holding the title to this day.

Every year hundreds of people gather to see the live shows and millions of others tune into the radio broadcasts. The Grand Ole Opry is considered to be the longest running radio program in history. With its first live performance by Jimmy Thompson, other early performers include Minnie Pearl, Ernest Tubb, and Bill Monroe. In subsequent years, the Opry welcomed a variety of artists, many of which would go on to become country music icons, like Dolly Parton and more recently American Idol winner, Carrie Underwood.

The Opry resided at the historic Ryman Auditorium until around 1974 where it then moved to the newly built Grand Ole Opry House. Today, it honours country music by exhibiting country legends and chart-toppers. Located in Nashville, Tennessee the Grand Ole Opry is a world-famous establishment that is the heart of country music in Tennessee. It is fundamental to the history of Tennessee because up until the 1940s country music was mainly based in New York, but this gradually changed, and it made its way to Tennessee, establishing Nashville as the music city.

The Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium

The Ryman Auditorium is recognized as a country music landmark that formerly housed the Grand Ole Opry, a long-running weekly radio show, until the mid-70s. Originally built in 1892, the auditorium was created as a gospel tabernacle but was eventually established as the auditorium it is today. The auditorium holds approximately 3500 seats. In 1926, traditional theatres were being converted into “movie houses” leaving the Ryman Auditorium the only stage for theatre, concerts, and recitals. When nationally famous individuals came to Nashville it was expected that they went to the Ryman Auditorium. In 1907, future president Woodrow Wilson was welcomed to the auditorium when visiting Tennessee.

The Country Music Hall of Fame

Country Music Hall of Fame (Northwest face)

The Country Music Hall of Fame is located in Nashville, Tennessee, the capital of country music. Early research indicates that approximately 550,000 visitors would make their way to Tennessee for the Hall of Fame during its first year of opening. Nashville has many musicians, singers, songwriters, and producers that have aided in the creation of this musical state. The Country Music Hall of Fame is now a grand tourist attraction that recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Recently, almost all of the one million visitors are tourists, which are comprised of historians, musicologists, and the legends themselves. The museum has over 2.5 million artifacts that are in the process of being digitized, making them available to the public. The museum is creating opportunities and preserving the history of Tennessee’s musical culture which Congress acknowledged in 2008, passing a bill recognizing country music as a truly American form of art.

Jubilee Singers of Fisk

Jubilee Singers, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee

Another large influence on the music of Tennessee is religion. Gospel music has made a huge impact on the state and how it has developed a culture of musical support within churches. Gospel groups like the Jubilee Singers of Fisk began singing together in the 1960’s, and still continue to perform around the United States. People originally joined gospel groups often as a method to support their church through involvement. This was often the way people were introduced to music and were able to grow an interest in singing, teamwork, and performance.

Bristol Sessions


Popular music was commercialized with the help of Tennessee. The state can be attributed for many popular works in the development of popular music genres including country, jazz, R&B, and southern rock. Bristol sessions are a series of recording sessions that were held in Bristol, Tennessee when Ralph Peer set out to discover local musicians in 1927. He had chose Bristol due to its close proximity to many local artists, and ease of access from other southern states. These sessions were considered influential to the history of music because the equipment used in them was considered to be top quality and the sessions were said to have discovered famous talents. Working in the Bristol sessions was seen as work that influenced the country music genre in the USA. These sessions included the fiddle, banjo, traditional ballads, gospel music, rustic comedy, and instrumentals that were considered legendary.

Historians called these sessions the “big bang” of country because of the evolution of the music through the years. Johnny Cash is credited to calling the Bristol sessions the most important event for the history of country music. These sessions established the first recordings of Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Alfred Reed, and The Carter Family. The idea of Bristol's influence on the music industry has established the attention of the public from around the world. Media attention was drawn to Bristol because of the sessions, which led to the Country Music Museum opening and country music becoming a prominent part of popular culture.


Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee

Not to be outshone by Nashville, Memphis has been given the nicknames “Home of the Blues” and “Birthplace of Rock and Roll”. William Christopher (W.C) Handy, commonly referred to as the "Father of the Blues", was an African American man from Alabama who spent the early years of his career leading and arranging various bands and travelling with minstrel shows. In the early years of the twentieth century he settled in Memphis where he began transcribing and arranging African American folk music into sheet music, which had not been done before this time. He is also commemorated as the first to write and record blues music with his 1912 recording of his song "Memphis Blues", which was soon followed by "St.Louis Blues" in 1914. During the 1920's and 1930's, Memphis became the leading recording centre for Delta Blues music. A time referred to as the "Golden age of Tennessee Blues". The Victor Talking Machine Company would carry out annual field session recordings in Memphis from 1927 till 1930. Following World War II through the 1950's, the cultural establishment of Robert Church's Beale Street had grown into a highly influential hub for rhythm and blues and electric blues artists. It attracted an abundance of talent, such as B.B King and Tennessee native, Tina Turner. Memphis continued to grow, influencing the music industry within the United States through it's unique blend and creation of genres.

Another important contributor to the Memphis music culture was another Alabama man named Sam Phillips, who was the owner of the Memphis Recording Service. Phillips got his big break as a producer after his work with B.B King, which lead to an onslaught of interest in the service his company was providing from a wide variety of regional talent. In 1953, Phillips started the famous independent record label Sun Records, which went onto craft the sounds of the early work for some of the most important figures in rock and roll. Sun Records is responsible for the first recordings of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and many more. His unique style of studio recording and his considerable ear for talent led to several number one records on the country charts, such as; Carl Perkins - Blue Suede Shoes, Johnny Cash - I Walk The Line, and Jerry Lee Lewis - Great Balls of Fire.

Suffice to say, the city of Memphis has a storied history in the music industry, and like Nashville has seen many influential artists begin their careers there. In addition to these two, Memphis has been the birthplace or home of stars from the genres of Rock & Roll, R&B, Soul, Jazz and even Hip-Hop, with names such as Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J, and current stars such as Young Dolph and Blocboy JB, all hailing from the city. This goes to show that while cities such as Nashville and Memphis are attractions based on the music made in the past, there are many fresh faces that are making the climb towards stardom who call the state of Tennessee home.

Beale Street


Blues music originated in the African American cultures in the southern states during the early twentieth century, and became widely popularized in the city of Memphis. Following the Civil War, the southern area of downtown Memphis was changed from an upper-middle class white neighbourhood, to a commercial location for the African American population. After a devastating outbreak of yellow fever in 1878-1879 much of Memphis was left abandoned. African American entrepreneur Robert Church bought significant land plots in downtown Memphis, eventually transforming the area surrounding Beale Street into the centre of African American culture and the headquarters for civil rights, politics, and religion.

Elvis Presley and Graceland

A cropped and retouched picture, showing a headshot of Elvis Presley.

As for what made Memphis such an attraction to musicians and fans alike can be accredited to the King of Rock & Roll himself, Elvis Presley. While being famous for his approach on Rock & Roll, Elvis had inspirations from other genres around Memphis incorporated into his music style. His songs carried strong undertones of Memphis Blues and R&B, which in effect shined a light on the talent of Memphis who had already been producing these genres of music. Through this fusing of genres, Elvis made Memphis into a tourist attraction, with everyone wanting to not only see the King perform live, but they were also drawn to the other styles the area had to offer. There was also Graceland, Elvis’ mansion which still offers tours of the property as well as live concerts from local artists. So, while Memphis does not have many fancy attractions or tropical weather, music has shaped the city into one of the main attractions in the country, and the musicians behind this music have made a large contribution to the industry over the years.

During the 1950s a large popularity of Rock & Roll began developing in Memphis, which only continued to grow in popularity. Young people had started to gain more access to music platforms like personal radio, and family televisions. This led to highly focused teenage oriented music, and experimental new sounds had gained popularity. New young performers became successful, and the genre of Rock & Roll made a huge impact.

One of the most influential performers during this time was a young male performer named Elvis Presley. Presley moved to Memphis, Tennessee when he was thirteen years old. This is where he began his career in music, eventually becoming the iconic figure of Rock & Roll that he’s known for today. Elvis was interested in music from an early age, and eventually was signed to the popular label, Sun Records. Elvis became extremely popular with his one of a kind look, new music, and appeal to American youth, it made a base for the beginning of celebrity culture.

Tennessee Barbecue


Of all the signature foods and forms of culture of the South, none unites and divides people like barbecue. In the South many variations of barbecue exists, and Southerners often greatly disagree on the appropriate meat, style of sauce, technique of cooking, and side dishes. Barbecue has been a staple food of the South as it is consumed across different racial groups, social classes, and religions. The food has proven to be a staple of the Southern United States, with its popularity lasting centuries and its consumption expanding world wide.

Memphis, Tennessee has proclaimed itself to be the biggest and best in terms of barbecue. It is even consumed for breakfast, with over 100 barbecue serving restaurants, some of which open as early as 9 am. They are home to the world’s largest pork barbecue contest every May, the World Championship of Barbecue Cooking Contest. As previously stated, there is great dispute over all aspects of barbecue, such as choice of meat, style of sauce/seasoning, and sides. Memphis typically barbecues pork, as do the majority of Southern states. In terms of sauce Memphis is well known for 2 sects of sauces and seasonings; a dry rack of seasoned ribs, and a wet rib slathered in a sweet tomato style sauce, which is often spiked with a form of liquid smoke. However, sauce is not often utilized in Memphis barbecue. The type of wood typically used in Tennessee barbecuing is hickory. Finally, in terms of sides, individuals in Memphis typically serve a mayonnaise based coleslaw. In fact, their signature barbecue dish is a pulled pork sandwich, topped with coleslaw. In addition to the pulled pork sandwich, Memphis has invented signature dishes such as the barbecue pizza, and the less popular barbecue spaghetti.

Pork ribs at the start of slow cooking in an above-ground barbecue "pit" at Leonard's Pit Barbecue - Memphis, Tennessee, USA

In the 1930’s President Roosevelt described Southern poverty as the most serious economic problem facing America. In this time period pigs were essential to Southerners survival, being one of the most efficient sources of food. For this reason, pork and barbecue has continued to be a large source of nutrition in the diets of those living in the Southern states. The word barbecue first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1661 meaning "any such framework whether used for cooking or some other purpose, like supporting a mattress”, however it has since narrowed to mean “the food and social event where it was served”. The English vocabulary usage of the term barbecue was originally adopted from the First Nations, and was referred to as the process of cooking and smoking meat. Although, by 1773 individuals began using the term to refer to a social event with historical figures such as George Washington using the phrase in multiple writings, such as a writing from 1769 stating, “went in to Alexandria to a barbecue”.

According to historian Ed Williams, whole hog barbecue originated in the 1500s. The first whole hog barbecue occurred in the region in 1541, when First Nations organized a surprise attack on a Spanish camp near the South of the Chickasaw Bluff. During the attack, most of the pigs that were brought over by the Spaniards were unintentionally burned to death, resulting in the first barbecue within the Mid-South. The Spaniards brought over herds of pigs, due to them being a popular source of protein, and pigs being a low maintenance animal. In the South, the slaughter of a full grown pig would be a huge celebratory feast throughout the neighbourhood.

Tennessee Whiskey


The consumption of whiskey may be associated with all Southern states, but the production is primarily associated with the mid Southern states, specifically Tennessee and Kentucky. Whiskey refers to any spirit distilled from fermented grain and is aged in hardwood barrels. In comparison, bourbon whiskey is a spirit made from a mash of corn, and small amounts of malted barley, rye, or wheat. Bourbon is also aged in heavily charred barrels that are used only once. Bourbon is the most popular type of American whiskey, however the best selling brand of American whiskey is Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey. Tennessee whiskey is produced exactly like bourbon, except it is filtered through sugar maple charcoal before barrelling. Bourbon was once the most popular distilled spirit in the United States, but following World War 2 its popularity began decreasing everywhere but the Southern states, which is still referred to as the “bourbon belt”. Due to South Bourbon and Whiskey culture Southerners are often stereotyped as “Hillbillies” or “Moonshiners”. Moonshining received its poor reputation during the prohibition due to bootleggers selling low-quality, sugar based moonshine. This association has stuck with Bourbon and Whiskey culture in the Southern states and has lead to an inaccurate stereotypes of Southerns being lazy “hillbilly” moonshiners.

The manufacturing and sale of whiskey is one of the most important industries in Tennessee, going back all the way to 1771. A popular brand of Tennessee whiskey is George Dickel Tennessee sour mash whiskey. At first, distilleries did not market and make their own whiskey, and instead would buy barrels of whiskey directly from distilleries. During this period of time whiskey would be sold in barrels and jugs, but later on would be sold in bottles. The counties that would produce the most Tennessee sour mash whiskey were Robinson and Lincoln, and later Moore County where Jack Daniel’s is produced. Tennessee whiskey has become popular to a point that there is many country songs about it. In particular 'Tennessee Whiskey', written by Dean Dylan and Linda Hargrove, sung by David Allen Coe. A 2015 cover of the song by Chris Stapleton went six times platinum according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey

A bottle of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey

Lynchburg, Tennessee is home to the Jack Daniel’s distillery, the nation's oldest registered distillery. In the 1860s Jack Newton Daniel choose the Lynchburg cave spring hollows as the perfect site for his whiskey manufacturing business. Jack Daniel’s has been distilling whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee since the mid-nineteenth century. Jack Daniels is an internationally acclaimed whiskey. The whiskey is created using the cold spring water, which is kept at a constant 56 degrees, and is free of any trace minerals. The Tennessee style whiskey is distinct from other whiskeys as it retains some of the yeast from previous runs to use as a starter, it then goes through the process of charcoal leaching, and oaken-cask warehousing. Daniels nephew Lem Motlow inherited the business in 1907 and was refused to close operations during the prohibition. Throughout prohibition, he opened “Lynchburg Hardware”, however soon after the repeal of the prohibition he resumed distillery operations.

Jack Daniels has since become a well known brand that sells a wide range of products beyond whiskey. As of 2007, the brand had 2006 retail stores totalling $17 million. The brand has become largely associated with Rock & Roll pop culture in Europe creating an issue with brand marketing, as it has become increasingly difficult to balance the brand's authentic Tennessee heritage, and its modern Rock & Roll following. Jack Daniel's sold more whiskey abroad than in its American market in 2008 for the first time in their company's history. Global demand for Jack Daniel’s so huge to be able to handle all this global demand for the whiskey the Browns- Foreman cooperation who own Jack Daniel’s, they had to invest 100,000,000 dollars into upgrading distillery. The brand has begun selling a wide range of products such as liquor chocolates, fudge, t-shirts, accessories, calendars, bar accessories, and of course the main product continues to be whiskey. In 2007 the brand introduced a line of barbecue sauces in the U.K as a tribute to the brand's Southern roots. The sauces came in 4 flavours; original, smoky, chilli, and honey, and of course all 4 of which contained Jack Daniels giving it an authentic whiskey flavour.

Andrew Jackson



Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767 in the region of the Carolinas, which would later become the state of Tennessee. Andrew Jackson started his career in law and became a state prosecutor in the Tennessee region. During his career as a lawyer he was one of the lawmakers who drafted Tennessee’s constitution.

Once Tennessee was an official part of the United States, the people of Tennessee elected Andrew Jackson as their first member of Congress. After his term in Congress, he gave up on politics for the time being, and decided to focus on law. Due to his legal background he was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Later, Jackson was elected the General of the volunteer Tennessee Militia, and later he became a General in the United States Army when his militia was called to duty during the War of 1812. As a General, Andrew Jackson led a very successful war campaign that included the demolishing of the Creek Indians aligned with Britain, and the destruction of British and Spanish troops occupying Florida and Louisiana. Jacksons most famous battle occurred in New Orleans where he gained fame and was credited with helping to end the War of 1812. The fame Andrew Jackson gained from the war led to his successful Presidential run in 1828, where he would become the 7th President of the United States, and serve two terms in office.

Andrew Jackson's Controversial Past


Although Andrew Jackson is revered by many Americans, his name comes with some controversy. Andrew Jackson’s contentious past has made him an even more prominent historical figure as his name is either thought of as a national hero or villain. One controversy which followed Andrew Jackson during his life is the location of his real birth place. Andrew Jackson stated during his life that he was born in South Carolina, as he was a strong supporter of southern rights and North Carolina, where he may have been born was a Union state. The debate regarding his birth place depends upon which house Andrew Jackson was actually born in, as historians argue whether he was born in the McKemey house in North Carolina or the Crawford house in South Carolina. Andrew Jackson is championed as a hero of the south, however the real location of his birth whether it be in the Union state of North Carolina or the Confederation state of South Carolina is often debated. Andrew Jackson’s contentious past is also due to his poor treatment of minorities. He was a large and unapologetic slave owner in Tennessee, and throughout his political career he was always a strong supporter of slavery.

"Portrait of King Andrew I"

Aside from slavery, Andrew Jackson has a very controversial past due to his treatment of native American populations. During Jackson’s administration the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed which allowed for the removal of Cherokee Indians from east of the Mississippi. In order to pass this law Jackson said to Congress that “this emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the aboriginals to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land.” Jackson expanded further and said, “our conduct toward these people” would “reflect our national character.” Jackson did not keep his word however and the passing of the Indian Removal act in 1830 was catastrophic against aboriginal communities. The military was used to violently and forcibly remove all aboriginals east of the Mississippi, regardless if they agreed to go or not. One account in Alfred Cave's journal article described the military action of removing aboriginal communities. This account stated they “had not only taken the Indians land from them and burnt and destroyed their houses and corn but used violence against their persons.” The law passed by Congress did not allow for forced removal of aboriginal populations, and the fact that Andrew Jackson approved of such violent action leaves a stain on his legacy. Due to Andrew Jackson’s past, some of his detractors went on to draw a portrait of him as “King Andrew I.” These detractors believed Andrew Jackson lacked a respect for the rule of law in America and acted as a “king” who was above the law during his presidency.

Idolization of Andrew Jackson


Andrew Jackson became a patriotic figure for many Americans. Jackson was so beloved by his supporters that in a rally in New Orleans celebrating an anniversary of his famous victory, upwards of 30,000 people showed up to get a glimpse of an old and frail Jackson waving from his carriage. This was one of Jackson’s last public appearances as he was terminally ill, still his supporters came in the thousands to support their hero.

Andrew Jackson has been held as an inspiration by countless Americans. One famous historical figure who viewed Jackson as an idol of was General Douglas MacArthur, who led American Forces in the Pacific during World War II. During MacArthur’s failed presidential run he subscribed to Andrew Jackson’s beliefs of peace through a show of strength, and that there was no such thing as limited war or limited political causes. These Jacksonian beliefs scared voters as they were worried about the potential of more wars under MacArthur and as a result not did elect him. A statue of Andrew Jackson in New Orleans commemorates his victory in the famous Battle of New Orleans. Protest groups have called for the removal of this statue due to his policy on aboriginal displacement and also because he was a slave owner. These protest groups have successfully managed to have a statue of Robert E. Lee removed and are now taking aim at other controversial historical figures including Andrew Jackson.

Andrew Jackson has been in the news recently as current President Donald Trump has stated that he is his presidential idol. Donald Trump chose to hang a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office once he was elected President. When questioned about his decision to choose Jackson's portrait, Trump said he was an “amazing figure in American History.” On the 250th anniversary of Andrew Jackson’s death, President Donald Trump decided to visit his tomb and lay a wreath in his honor. These two actions in support of Andrew Jackson by Donald Trump were early in his presidency and made him even more of a controversial figure in American politics. By supporting Andrew Jackson and revering him as his hero, people believe Trump in turn is supporting all of Andrew Jacksons disreputable actions in the past.

Stereotypes of Rural Tennessee


Common Stereotypes


Following suit with the majority of stereotypes, misconceptions surrounding rural Tennessee stem from a realistic description of a small group dwelling there, which have then been popularized and applied to the entire population. Rural Tennessee is considered to be both farmland and the land that runs through the Appalachian Mountains. Both are depicted as having an embedded “culture of poverty”, which refers to living in impoverished conditions as a way of life, which is passed on from generation to generation, and as being isolated from urban lifestyles. Many popular misconceptions of rural Tennessee follow those that are believed of the rural South, and features primarily negative stereotypes. It is considered to be a highly conservative area, unprogressive, and lazy, and with a high population of uneducated individuals.

Rural countryside near Dayton, Tennessee (2898309573)

The people who live in rural Tennessee are more often stereotyped than the land itself, the two most common derogatory terms used are “hillbilly” and “redneck”. Both terms are commonly used to stereotype a typically white and uneducated individual, who is isolated from urban Tennessee. Despite both being stereotypes of the rural Tennessee population, there are underlying differences between the stereotypes “hillbilly” and “redneck”. The “hillbilly” stereotype is arguably gentler then “redneck”, and depicts someone who is kind, simple, and lives in impoverished conditions. They are often depicted in rags, with a dirty and unhygienic appearance. Moreover, the stereotype draws an image of someone who is unemployed, unintelligent, has poor social skills, and occupying mainly the rural mountain area of Tennessee. Contrastingly, a “redneck” is used with a more offensive undertone when describing the individuals living in rural Tennessee. This stereotype is used to refer to those who typically occupy the farmland, and are described as being violent, ignorant, and often racist. When using this stereotype, people usually produce images that also coincide with the term “white trash”, and are also depicted as living in poverty. It is a term often used to negatively describe the working-class white male, a group in which there is a high population of in rural Tennessee.

Origins of Rural Tennessee Stereotypes


The belief that those who dwell in rural Tennessee are different from those living in urban areas dates back to the early ninetieth century, when urban dwellers discovered the presence of “strange and peculiar people” living in the surrounding mountains. They were different from those who lived in cities, and therefore labelled as such. Word spread of rural Tennessee dwellers, and the stereotypes we still see today were created. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that the stereotype of rural Tennessee was popularized, mainly through different media outlets. It began in magazines and newspapers that were popular in urban areas, and then spread to radio and television, all would mock and reduce the status of those hailing from the rural south for the pleasure of their consumers. This particularly occurred during the era of the Great Depression, and the stereotype of the “hillbilly” was truly born, and prior images of strange and unfamiliar rural dwellers were replaced with those of simple and foolish men. During this time, the stereotyped shifted from those in rural Tennessee being unintelligent and backward, and took on a more comical tone. They were seen as a joke, and were often used as bumbling characters in funny stories, which effectively distracted non-rural people from the prevalent poverty during the 1930’s.

Media Portrayal of Rural Tennessee


It is not often that rural Tennessee itself is portrayed in the media, it is commonly clumped in with the rest of the rural South, which is portrayed using the same stereotypes. The pictures used in the media of rural Tennessee depict acres of farmland, and small towns with little connection to the urban areas. The people are portrayed as unintelligent and poor, a trend that began in the early twentieth centuries with creation of comics such as “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith”, “Li’l Abner”, and “Long Sam”.

Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan from The Beverly Hillbillies - 1970

There are also television shows which do not focus not on rural Tennessee, but portray images of people that are stereotyped as coming from the rural South. The popular show “The Beverly Hillbillies”, which aired on CBS from 1962-1971 followed the story of an uncivilized and foolish hillbilly family that moves from the Appalachian Mountains, to the Hollywood hills. This shows popularity pushed for the creation of shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” (CBS, 1960-1968), “The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS, 1979-1982), and “Hee Haw” (CBS, 1969-1971), all of which further popularized stereotypes of Southern families. Reality television shows such as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” (TLC, 2012-2014) aired the lives of a stereotypical Southern family, and has become one of the main images that represent the Southern rural population. In 2002, CBS pitched an idea for the show “The Real Beverly Hillbillies”, in which a poor, rural family would be moved from their Appalachian home to a Beverly Hills mansion. This idea was shot down by critics, and did not end up airing.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park



View east from Clingman's Dome GSMNP NC1

The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is located alongside the border of Tennessee and North Carolina and makes up a 13-county area. Great Smokey National Park covers 522,427 acres of land which includes lakes, streams, hiking trails, historical buildings, and a bountiful forest full of nature and wildlife. Great Smokey Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern united states and is the most visited federal national park with an estimate reaching over 11 million visitors a year. The park was established in 1934 with considerable donations of monetary or property coming from John D. Rockefeller, The U.S Government, and several private citizens who helped either donate land or finances for the project. The region of Great Smokey National Park was once home to a community of loggers and mountain people who prospered off the land and its resources. The park is known for preserving many historical buildings of south-Appalachian history.



Great Smokey Mountains is home to 10 developed campgrounds with over 1000 sites you can camp at. In 2013 an estimated 224,557 total nights were spent by people camping out at Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The park offers 4 different styles of camping with • Backcountry: An ideal camping experience for hikers and backpackers. To access these sites, you must hike for miles to reach the campgrounds. • Frontcountry: Ideal for those looking to camp near their cars with access to electricity, water, and restrooms. This experience is recommended for those who are newer to camping and those with younger children. • Ground Campgrounds: These are campgrounds for those with parties of 8 or more present. Located besides the frontcountry campgrounds. • Horse Camps: These campgrounds are unique in the fact they allow for the hitching of horses for an overnight camp. These sites are accessible by car/road for easy access. There is a total of 5 Horse Camps located around the national park. Be advised that all overnight stays require a permit and reservation in advance.

Great Smoky Mountains map





Great Smokey Mountains National Park is home to an incredible selection of wildlife which includes nearly 50 species of fur bearing animals, 200+ avian, 34 reptiles, 30 amphibians, and 60 fish. Black Bears, Coyotes, and Bobcats lurk in the region, and are considered to be the apex predators of the park. There is an estimated population of 1,500 black bears in the smokies, with an average of 2 bears per square mile.



The extensive forest of Great Smokey Mountains National Park is home to 125 native trees, 18 non- native varieties of trees, and 5000 species of vegetation have also been found in the region. Great Smokey Mountains National Park is known for its extensive forest of red spruce and hardwoods that consume the greater area of the region. The park is 95% covered with trees and has over 2000 miles of streams that crisscross the park. The streams and lakes are filled with fish and aquatic life.

Activities in The Park Hiking


Great Smokey Mountains National Park is home to 850 miles of trails for hiking, including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Great Smokey Mountains have a wide range of trails from beginner to advanced to help pander towards a general populous who is either looking for a challenge or is merely looking to have fun at an introductory level. A few of the most popular locations are Charlies Bunion, Alum Cave Bluffs, Rainbow Falls, Chimney Tops, and Andrews Bald. Be advised that bear pepper spray is requested to bring due to the regions large black bear population.

Firefly Event


For a 2 week stretch anywhere from late May to late June is the Firefly Event at Great Smokey National Park. This is in thanks to the large population of Synchronous Firefly present at the park which take part in a mating ritual around the 6-month mark of the year. The fireflies emit a flashing frequency to help find a mate, thus giving off the light we see in fireflies. Biking Bicyclists and joggers can enjoy Cades Cove undisturbed from motor vehicles every day before 10 AM biking alongside the Cades Cove trail.


Waterfall - Great Smoky Mountain state park

Great Smokey Mountains National Park is home to countless beautiful waterfalls that runs all throughout the park, with the more popular waterfalls being • Laurel Falls • Rainbow Falls • Grotto Waterfall • Abrams Falls • Hen Wallow Falls You can access these waterfalls situated parkwide by nearly any means of transportation, whether it be hiking, biking, jogging, or even by car, there’s plenty of waterfalls to be seen. In the smokies, an estimated 85 inches of water falls per year, while in the wet years, up to 8 feet of rain can descended upon the park.

Further Reading


  1. A. Elizabeth Taylor, “A Short History of the Woman Suffrage Movement in Tennessee,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 2, no. 3 (1943).
  2. Aaron E. Russell, “Material Culture and African-American Spirituality at the Hermitage,” Historical Archaeology 31, no. 2 (1997): 64.
  3. Alexander, Lamar. “Nothing Could Do More Damage to Tennessee’s Auto Industry Than Tariffs on Imported Automobiles and Automotive Parts.” Tennessee Senator Alexander.
  4. Alfred Cave. “Abuse of Power: Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act of 1830” The Historian: 1330-1353
  5. Alfred Cave. "Abuse of Power: Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act of 1830" "The Historian": 1335
  6. Allen, Kevin, “Poile has Predators poised to win now” Gale Academic Onefile (Fed 16, 2015)
  7. Anastasia Sims, “Powers that Pray” and “Powers that Prey”: Tennessee and the Fight for Woman’s Suffrage,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 50, no. 4 (1991).
  8. Andrew P. Cohen, “The Lynching of James Scales: How the FBI, the DOJ, and State Authorities ‘Whitewashed’ Racial Violence in Bledsoe County Tennessee,” Texas Journal Civil Liberties & Civil Rights 19, no. 2 (2014): 297-299.
  9. Angela Cooke-Jackson, Elizabeth K. Hansen, “Appalachian Culture and Reality TV: The Ethical Dilemma of Stereotyping Others,” Journal of Mass Media Ethics 23, no. 2 (2008).
  10. Anonymous, "History: Black Slave Women" The Tennessee Tribune, (July 8, 2010)
  11. Arroyo, Elizabeth Fortson. "Poor Whites, Slaves, and Free Blacks in Tennessee, 1796-1861." Tennessee Historical Quarterly 55, no. 1 (1996): 58.
  12. Biles, Roger. 1988. "Cotton Fields Or Skyscrapers?: The Case of Memphis, Tennessee." Historian 50 (2): 213.
  13. Bob Jenkins. Jack Daniel's, Straight Up: A Venerable American Institution, Jack Daniel's is More Than a Whiskey - it's a Lifestyle Brand. (License!, vol. 10, no. 8, 2007).
  14. Brian W. Thomas, “Power and Community: The Archaeology of Slavery at the Hermitage Plantation,” American Antiquity 63, no. 4 (October 1998): 537.
  15. Chandler, Walter. "A Century of the Tennessee Historical Society and of Tennessee History." Tennessee Historical Quarterly 9, no. 1 (1950): 3-9.
  16. Christopher A. Cooper, H. Gibbs Knotts, Katy L. Elders, “A Geography of Appalachian Identity,” The University of North Carolina Press 51, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 458.
  17. Cynthia G. Fleming, “'We Shall Overcome’: Tennessee and the Civil Rights Movement,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 54, no. 3 (1995): 235-236.
  18. Daniel Schaffer, “Environment and TVA: Toward a Regional Plan for the Tennessee Valley, 1930s,” The Tennessee Historical Society 43, no.4 (1984): 342.
  19. Douglas, Joseph. "Miners and Moonshiners: Historic Industrial Uses of Tennessee Caves." Cave Archaeology in the Eastern Woodlands (2001), 251-267.
  20. Elizabeth Fortson Arroyo, “Poor Whites, Slaves, and Free Blacks in Tennessee, 1796-1861,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 55, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 59.
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  61. Morris, Bill. “Playing for Keeps: Elvis Presley and the Evolution of Memphis” Business Perspectives 14, no. 3 (June 2002): 18.
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