[Civil Rights Movement]

[The Civil Rights Movement in Nashville]
From its second-story location in the Nashville Public Library, overlooking the intersection of Church Street and Seventh Avenue North, the Civil Rights Collection could be thought of as blooming where it was planted almost a half-century ago.

It was in the streets below that students from the city’s four black colleges launched a nonviolent protest against segregated lunch counters and other public accommodations on February 13, 1960, after three months of preparation and planning. The sit-in campaign became a major component of the civil rights movement against racial segregation and injustice in the South and elsewhere across the United States.

Earlier, starting in September 1957, Nashville took the first steps toward ending segregation and discrimination in its public schools. In the South, where separation of the races was mandated by state law, no other city acted more promptly to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous 1954 ruling, in Brown v. Board of Education, that such laws were unconstitutional.

The Civil Rights Collection occupies the west wing of the Nashville Room, which is the library’s central repository of historical materials documenting the life of the city since its founding in 1779. This new collection was begun soon after the main library on Church Street was formally opened on June 9, 2001. The space dedicated to the collection was first shown to the public on December 6, 2003.

The room features black and white photos from the civil rights era by photographers of The Tennessean and Nashville Banner newspapers, as well as display text prepared by members of the Nashville Room staff, ably assisted by some three dozen local citizens and others with direct knowledge of the subject.

Several of the former students who led the sit-ins in the 1960s returned to take part in a commemorative program and formal dedication of the Civil Rights Room and Collection on February 15, 2004.

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