Nashville, also known as the Music City.
Nashville, often referred to as the “Music City,” is steeped in a fascinating history that spans centuries.
Established in 1779, this iconic city played a significant role in the American Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and later emerged as a center for music, earning its reputation as the heart of country music.
Immerse yourself in the past as you explore historic landmarks, including the iconic Ryman Auditorium, the Parthenon replica in Centennial Park, and the historic Belle Meade Plantation with United Street Tours. Our historic walking tours are the best way to experience Nashville.
Learn more about Black Nashville and Black-owned businesses.
history of nashville tennessee
Nashville is known foremost as a country music paradise, so the average person knows very little about Nashville’s thriving African American culture. Although most people associate the name, Music City with country greats and the Grand Ole Opry, the Fisk Jubilee Singers put Nashville on the map as a musical place.
Today, the population in Nashville is about 28 percent Black or African American. On a walking tour with United Street Tours, you’ll take the path less-traveled into the 28 percent. And in turn, you’ll discover the fuller story of the Music City.
The first permanent European settlement in Nashville took root on the cliffs by the Cumberland River as far back as 1779. It was James Robertson who allegedly founded Nashville when he led his group of pioneers down the valley. About 300 pioneers made the dangerous trek to Nashville, including approximately 30 enslaved Africans.
As in much of America, black people arrived in Nashville chained. The enslaved were stripped of their history, culture, and heritage and were forced to expand economies through forced labor.
In Nashville, both enslaved people and free black people were present from the start, and the system of slavery continued to grow following demand. But, until recently, most accounts about early American history as it relates to black life and culture have remained a side note and not at the forefront of history.
The United Street Tours team is proud to announce that from dedicated research, we have uncovered fascinating educational stories about the black experience in Nashville. We are eager to share them with you on our Nashville tours.
the civil war in nashville
Nashville has a rich civil war history. Historic civil war sites and attractions dot the Nashville landscape and serve as markers of memory. They tell tales of a time when the state of Tennessee seceded from the Union and sided with the Confederate States of America.
Like all the states that rebelled against federal interference, they had one thing in common: they were reliant on slave labor to sustain their plantation economies. The national question was put forth, and Tennessee declared itself a slave state, ultimately joining the confederacy. In 1862, Nashville became the first Confederate state capital to fall to the Northern armies; the occupation lasted until the end of the war in 1865.
Black people built Nashville’s Fort Negley during the Civil War. Construction began in 1862. Union Army officers then viewed the mighty fortress as a show of force. Today, the fort’s original purpose has faded. Its enduring story now belongs to the black slaves and freedmen who were given no say in building it.
In 1862, the Union’s Army encircled Nashville’s black churches, arrested black men and women, and took them to the construction site with tools. By the project’s end, the army owed black people and some “loyal slave owners” over $86,000 in wages.
Shown in the photo is the front entrance of Fort Negley.
civil rights movement
Many people wonder why Nashville, TN is important to Civil Rights History. The Civil Rights Movement in Nashville marked a time when local college students entered Kress (now KMart), Woolworth’s, and McClellan stores at 12:40 p.m. in downtown Nashville. After making their purchases at the stores, the students sat-in at the lunch counters. This was February 13, 1960, twelve days after the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins occurred. Despite being denied service, the students continued the sit-ins over the next three months.
The first violent response to the protests came on February 27. The students that day were physically assaulted by a white group who opposed desegregation. Law enforcement arrested eighty-one people; however, not one of them included one of the attackers. Those detained were found guilty of disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace. Rather than pay fines, every single one of them opted to serve time in jail.
Unlike most Nashville walking tour companies, United Street Tours showcases the hidden culture that many find difficulty to discover on their own. Our tours are educational, interactive, and inclusion-focused. We focus on slavery, freedom, civil rights, culture, and social justice. Great for all age groups.
POPULAR NASHVILLE WALKING TOURS
United Street Tours offers a series of 5-star rated, historical Nashville walking tours that are led and curated by locals. Our Nashville walking tours embrace those pieces of black history in Nashville that have been ripped apart and buried beneath the bricks of the mainstream. Together, we will unearth the fragments and piece them together with extraordinary stories that leave you more educated and inspired to become bridge builders in your community.
United Street Tours offers a unique angle to Nashville tours by introducing you to the people, history, food, and art of black culture that is often overlooked.
We’re on a mission as dedicated Nashville tour guides to increase your awareness, leave you feeling hopeful, inspired, and empowered to find ways to protest injustices, build bridges, and contribute to the community.
Put simply, we aim to inspire others to #WalkUnited.
Look behind single-story narratives and discover Nashville’s missing stories that offer a complete viewpoint from our unique perspective.
- Celebrate the diversity of Nashville and gain cultural awareness visiting authentic Nashville cultural attractions.
- Understand how everyday people created change and become inspired to promote unity through your future decision-making.