The Tennessee State Museum presents TN Writers | TN Stories: Rachel Louise Martin: A Most Tolerant Little Town, on Saturday, August 12, from 10:30 am – 12 Noon CDT. The event is free and open to the public, but please register on the Museum website first.
In graduate school, Rachel Louise Martin volunteered with a Southern oral history project. One day, she was sent to a small town in Tennessee, in the foothills of the Appalachians, where locals wanted to build a museum to commemorate the events of September 1956, when Clinton High School became the first school in the former Confederacy to undergo court-mandated desegregation. But not everyone wanted to talk. As one founder of the Tennessee White Youth told her, “Honey, there was a lot of ugliness down at the school that year; best we just move on and forget it.”
For years, Martin wondered what it was some white residents of Clinton didn’t want remembered. So, she went back, eventually interviewing over sixty townsfolk — including nearly a dozen of the first students to desegregate Clinton High — to piece together what had happened back in 1956; the death threats and beatings, picket lines and cross burnings, neighbors turned on neighbors and preachers for the first time at a loss for words.
In A Most Tolerant Little Town, Rachel Martin weaves together over a dozen perspectives in a kaleidoscopic portrait of a small town living through a tumultuous turning point for America. The result is a spellbinding mystery, a riveting piece of forgotten civil rights history, and a poignant reminder of the toll on those who stand on the frontlines of social change. You may never before have heard of Clinton, Tennessee — but you won’t be forgetting the town anytime soon after this.
This event is part of the TN Writers | TN Stories series presented in partnership with Humanities Tennessee, Chapter 16 and Vanderbilt University Press. Readings and discussions take place in the Digital Learning Center at the Tennessee State Museum. All events include an opportunity to purchase books through the Museum store and get them signed by the author.
The author, Rachel Louise Martin, Ph.D., is a historian and writer whose work has appeared in outlets like The Atlantic and Oxford American. The author of Hot, Hot Chicken, a cultural history of Nashville hot chicken, and A Most Tolerant Little Town, the forgotten story of the first school to attempt court-mandated desegregation in the wake of Brown v. Board, she is especially interested by the politics of memory and by the power of stories to illuminate why injustice persists in America today. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
The host, Linda T. Wynn, is the Assistant Director for State Programs with the Tennessee Historical Commission and a former member of Fisk University’s faculty, where she taught subjects in history and public administration in the Department of History and Political Science. A co-founder of the Nashville Conference on African American History and Culture, she is an active scholar and contributor to numerous publications including Profiles of African Americans in Tennessee, which she co-edited with Dr. Bobby Lovett (1996); and editor of Journey to Our Past: A Guide to African-American Markers in Tennessee. She currently serves as Chair of the Metropolitan Historical Commission of Nashville and Davidson County.
These Temporary Exhibitions are currently at the Museum: Building a Bright Future: Black Communities and Rosenwald Schools in Tennessee (through February 25, 2024); Military Representation through Public Art at the Tennessee State Capitol; Early Expressions: Art in Tennessee Before 1900 and In Search of the New: Art in Tennessee after 1900.
The Tennessee State Museum is located at 1000 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville, TN 37208. Ample parking and admission are free. To register for the TN Writers program, and for more information about the museum, go to their website: https://tnmuseum.org/