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The Nashville Race Riot (1967)

Stokely Carmichael, centre, attending the Impact symposium at Vanderbilt University in Nashville before demonstrations on April 4, 1967 (Photograph © by Jimmy Ellis/The Tennesseean)

In acknowledgement of Black History Month, The Royal Gazette continues the publication of stories throughout February on African-American and global African people, events and institutions, and their contributions in history

The Nashville Race Riot occurred on April 8, 1967 when African-American students from Fisk University and Tennessee A&I University (now Tennessee State University) rioted along Jefferson Street, leading to many injuries and arrests, as well as extensive property damage. It was one of the many race riots that occurred in US cities during the spring and summer of 1967.

Some authorities incorrectly blamed the violence on Stokely Carmichael — to later known as Kwame Ture — who came to Nashville to speak at Fisk, Tennessee A&I and Vanderbilt University.

Fisk and Tennessee A&I officially attempted to prohibit Carmichael from coming to their college campus to speak to the students. In protest, Fisk students threatened to move the event of Carmichael speaking to a nearby church. Tennessee A&I students were planning to hold their own rally for him speaking outside their college campus if he couldn’t speak inside.

On April 6, 1967, Carmichael spoke at Fisk, urging them to become involved in the growing Black Power movement. The next day, Carmichael spoke to the Tennessee A&I students at Kean Hall, where he encouraged the students there to organise and take economic control of the African-American community in Nashville, which he claimed was one of the goals of the Black Power movement.

On April 8, 1967, Carmichael gave a similar speech at Vanderbilt. Later that evening, a riot erupted around North Nashville where Fisk, Tennessee State and Meharry Medical College were located. The riot started when a Black manager of the University Inn, a Jefferson Street restaurant, called the police to remove a drunken, disruptive solider from the establishment. Once the police arrived and removed the solider, Fisk and Tennessee A&I students started an impromptu picket line around the University Inn.

More police were called to the scene and this time they were met by students throwing rocks at them and at passing cars along Jefferson Street. By the end of that day, April 8, 14 people were injured including an 18-year-old man who was shot in the leg. The riots continued the next day at Tennessee A&I where Molotov cocktails were thrown through the windows of several businesses, including a liquor store, a petrol station and a barbershop. At least a dozen people were injured, including a Tennessee A&I student who was shot in the neck, but fortunately no one was killed. An estimated 40 people were arrested during the second day of the riot.

On April 10, 1967, Nashville mayor Beverly Briley called for an end to the violence and greatly increased the police presence in the area. Briley also blamed Carmichael for causing the riot, even as he and other Nashville civic and political leaders ignored both the poor condition of the Black neighbourhoods in North Nashville and the longstanding resentment towards the Nashville police by Black residents. Regardless of the actual factors causing the riot, it ended on that day, April 10.

Momodu, S. (2020, February 09) The Nashville Race Riot (1967). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/events-african-american-history/the-nashville-race-riot-1967/

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Published February 25, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated February 24, 2021 at 3:21 pm)

The Nashville Race Riot (1967)

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