African-American Historical Impact in Anderson County, Tennessee
National African-American History Month in February celebrates the contributions that African-Americans have made to American history in their struggles for freedom and equality, and it deepens our understanding of our Nation’s history, as well as our local history. Here are a few places in Anderson County, Tennessee where you can learn about the significant impact that African-Americans have had in our community.
The Green McAdoo Cultural Center located in Clinton is a museum dedicated to telling the story of the Clinton 12 — the courageous young black students who in August 1956, quietly entered the front door of Clinton High School, making it the first desegregated public high school in the South. The museum includes a 1950s period classroom, videos, letters, and historical artifacts. Outside of the museum is a display of a dozen life-sized bronze statues by The Large Art Company that depict each of the students as they are about to walk from their neighborhood to integrate Clinton High School.
Coal Miner’s Museum – After the Civil War ended, the southern states were financially strapped and looking for ways to add money to their coffers, and farmers and businessmen needed to find replacements for their former slave labor force. Their resolution was the convict lease system where convicts were leased to companies. With the addition of Black Codes that many states passed, many recently freed slaves found themselves imprisoned for petty offenses and leased as prison laborers. The community of Coal Creek, now known as Rocky Top, is credited for ending the convict lease system in Tennessee. Discover the whole story at the Coal Creek Miners Museum.
Museum of Appalachia – The Museum has several artifacts with African American attribution that we recommend visiting. A couple of these displays include the Parkey Blacksmith Shop. Whereas other areas of the country had the famous “village blacksmith,” many isolated families of Southern Appalachia had their own tiny shops. The Parkey family, of African-American descent, lived in a remote area known as Rebel Hollow in Hancock County, Tennessee, and worked out of the small shop on display at the Museum of Appalachia. In addition, be sure to check out the folk art on display by artist Bessie Harvey. The Museum shares that Bessie was a deeply religious person and a keen observer of nature. She saw the makings of biblical scenes, people and animals in the gnarled limbs and tree trunks, and such around her neighborhood. She started to “bring out” her visions, and soon many of the great museums of American added her works to their permanent collections: the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the Whitney Museum in New York, and the High Museum in Atlanta, just to mention a few. Her works have been called “one of America’s leading creators of African tribal art.” You will learn about these African-American artifacts and more at the Museum of Appalachia.
Anderson County, Tennessee has been the setting for major historical events in the Civil Rights Movement. During your next visit, make sure you take time to visit these landmarks and museums!