Civil Rights plaque, broken during 2020 protest, donated to Fisk University

The pieces of the destroyed plaque will be part of a new, permanent civil rights exhibit in the John Hope and Aurelia Elizabeth E. Franklin Library.

The Nashville Bar Association and Nashville Bar Foundation, in partnership with the Napier Looby Association and Foundation, the Mayor’s Office, the Black Caucus of the Metro Council, and sponsor K&L Gates donated the broken pieces of a 1995 Civil Rights Plaque to Fisk University.

In the summer of 2020, a peaceful protest in response to the death of George Floyd turned violent in downtown Nashville. One casualty of the violence was the permanent Civil Rights plaque near the downtown courthouse. It was broken, and protestors then used the pieces to break the courthouse windows.

During the dedication ceremony, Mayor John Cooper, Fisk President Vann Newkirk, Council-At-Large Sharon Hurt, Jianne McDonald with K&L Gates, and Spencer Fane attorney William J. ‘Paz’ Haynes, III spoke.

“In the summer of 2020, a peaceful protest that was in response to the murder of George Floyd turned violent in downtown Nashville,” said Mayor John Cooper. “The plaque, which was mounted on a wall of city hall, was broken, and some of its pieces were used to break the courthouse windows.

“Today, I am joined by Fisk, the Nashville Bar, and more to unveil a permanent exhibit for the pieces of the plaque. Thanks to our hosts for honoring our city’s past. I look toward the future where Nashville can be a thriving and equitable city that works for everyone.”

The Civil Rights Plaque, originally dedicated on April 19, 1995, commemorated the 1960 desegregation of Nashville. On the morning of April 19, 1960, the home of Black Councilman Z. Alexander Looby was bombed. Several thousand marchers walked to the Metro Courthouse in protest, where Mayor Ben West met them and told the crowd, in a public exchange with Fisk University student Diane Nash, that shop owners were wrong to sell to Black residents while denying them service at lunch counters.

The pieces of the plaque are part of a new, permanent exhibit in the Special Collections and Archives area which includes a digital display with a documentary about the desegregation of Nashville and the historical significance of the plaque. This project is the first of two these organizations have undertaken to provide an accurate portrayal of the history of civil rights in Nashville.

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