The Nashville Way
Racial Etiquette and the Struggle for Social Justice in a Southern City
Publication Year: 2012
Civil rights leaders such as John Lewis, James Bevel, Diane Nash, and James Lawson who came into their own in Nashville were devoted to nonviolent direct action, or what Houston calls the “black Nashville Way.” Through the dramatic story of Nashville’s 1960 lunch counter sit-ins, Houston shows how these activists used nonviolence to disrupt the coercive script of day-to-day race relations. Nonviolence brought the threat of its opposite—white violence— into stark contrast, revealing that the Nashville Way was actually built on a complex relationship between etiquette and brute force. Houston goes on to detail how racial etiquette forged in the era of Jim Crow was updated in the civil rights era. Combined with this updated racial etiquette, deeper structural forces of politics and urban renewal dictate racial realities to this day.
In The Nashville Way, Houston shows that white power was surprisingly adaptable. But the black Nashville Way also proved resilient as it was embraced by thousands of activists who continued to fight battles over schools, highway construction, and economic justice even after most Americans shifted their focus to southern hotspots like Birmingham and Memphis.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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This book has been with me for a long time and through a lot of changes. There I gratefully acknowledge the fi nancial support that underwrote major parts of the research and writing of this book. The McLaughlin Grant from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida, was absolutely critical in pro-viding a summer of intensive research in Nashville. A Dissertation Writing Fel-...
Introduction. The Nashville Way
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These aberrations are kept going more by unwritten and un- writable laws than by the written law aff ecting the races: by an immense and elaborate code of etiquette that governs their daily relations; by an exquisite and intuitive tact on the part of both whites and Negroes; by adherence to a labyrinthine code of manners, taboos and conventions. There is therefore a sense of strain in the air, of a delicately poised equilibrium of forces ...
One. A Manner of Segregation: Lived Race Relations and Racial Etiquette
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Someone standing by Nashvilleâs state capitol in the preâ World War II era could easily visualize at least some dimensions of the cityâs segmentation. The building towered over downtown Nashville and the tall hills overlooking the rest of the city and the Cumberland River. Although the vistaâs eff ect might be lessened some-what by the cityâs notoriously smoke- choked air, the rare clear day permitted a ...
Two. The Triumph of Tokenism: Public School Desegregation
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As morning dawned on September 9, 1957, nineteen African American six- year- olds tightly gripped the hands of their elders as they made their way to new and unfamiliar schools. Rocks, spit, and insults cascaded through the air as policemen, protesters, and parents fl anked their paths. One white woman in near- hysterics screamed âpull that black kinky hair outâ as the schoolchildren passed her. Picket ...
Three. The Shame and the Glory: The 1960 Sit-ins
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The shattering sound of crashing plates in February 1960 signaled that something unusual was happening in downtown Nashville. âThey must have dropped two thousand dollarsâ worth of dishes that day. It was almost like a cartoon,â remem-bers student leader Diane Nash. âOne in particular, she was so nervous, she picked up dishes and she dropped one, and sheâd pick up another one, and sheâd drop it.â ...
Four. The Kingdom or Individual Desires?: Movement and Resistance during the 1960s
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On a Sunday in 1961, âJohn Barnettâ decided to worship at a downtown Presby-terian church in âKnoshville, Kennessina.â A black New Englander who had left his church back home to study at seminary, he was happy for the chance âto be a listener instead of a pastor.â Upon entering, Barnett was confronted by a âstocky grizzled- haired manâ who demanded that he leave. Shaken, Barnett withdrew, ...
Five. Black Power/White Power: Militancy in Late 1960s Nashville
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During an early evening in April 1967, as Jeff erson Street seethed with unrest, mill-ing groups of African American students watched and occasionally joined in as some of their peers hurled contempt at helmeted riot squads. As police lights cast ominous fl ickering colors over the scene, a middle- aged African American leader pleaded for calm over a borrowed bullhorn, even as a female student tried to wrest ...
Six. Cruel Mockeries: Renewing a City
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Just months aft er being assaulted with a rock to the head in North Nashville, Edwin Mitchell accepted an invitation to speak before the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in October 1967. It was a fraught moment in Nashvilleâs racial his-tory given changes slowly becoming visible across the city and, even at a formal event, Mitchell was not willing to mince words. He did carefully caution in his ...
Epilogue. Achieving Justice
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A 1963 New York Herald Tribune article implicitly extolled the white Nashville Way as the reason why Nashville was the âmost desegregated city in the South.â The au-thor observed that âone thing [Nashville] cannot abide is unpleasantness. It values peace and quiet as Birmingham, to the south, values separate water fountains and defi ance.â Indeed, the writer was quite taken with the diff erence: âa traveler from ...
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Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South
Series Editor Byline: Bryant Simon and Jane Dailey, Series Editors