Home Local News 2nd annual Diane Nash Walk kicks off weekend of Celebrations

2nd annual Diane Nash Walk kicks off weekend of Celebrations

by Cass Teague
2nd Annual Walk with the Trustee group along with Miss Fisk Mya Banks (front row center)
outside Historic Fisk University Jubilee Hall.

Metropolitan Trustee Erica S. Gilmore, Walk-Bike Nashville, and America Walks sponsored their 2nd Annual Walks with the Trustee in honor of Diane Nash on April 19, to kick off the greater Metro Nashville & Davidson County’s weekend of events honoring the civil rights activist, taking place one day before Councilwoman Zulfat Suara’s exciting celebration, “Dedicating Diane Nash Plaza: A Celebration of Courage and Conviction.”

Their series of community walks is dedicated to creating a greener, more walkable Nashville and Davidson County. Each 30 minute long walk aims to strengthen community bonds, promote health, and celebrate our collective spirit. This initiative, led by Trustee Gilmore, aims to promote inclusivity and mobility justice in our community. They began their 2024 series with their 2nd annual Diane Nash Walk to commemorate the April 19th March in 1960 led by the brave student from Fisk University to the Nashville Courthouse.

The Walk was led by Nicholas Garvin, Executive Assistant to the Trustee, accompanied by fellow Trustee Office staffers Eugene Hampton, Financial Officer, and Meghann Stamps, Director of Communications. The initial goal was to walk from Jackson St. Church of Christ and survey the Historic Fisk University neighborhood including the home of Z. Alexander Looby on Meharry Boulevard.

Along the way, the intrepid group of walkers passed by several old and new Fisk and Meharry landmarks, including the John Lewis Center, the Richardson House, the John Wesley Work House, the Van Vechten Galleries, the Hubbard hospitals (original and Metro General), the Meharry amphitheatre, the Fisk libraries (Cravath and Franklin), and Jubilee Hall. Outside Jubilee Hall, the group met the newly-elected Miss Fisk University, Houston, Texas native and SGA Vice-President Mya Banks.

Jeff McGruder (top center wearing a white cap) welcomed the walkers to Citizens Bank.

Beginning in February 1960, Nashville City Councilman Z. Alexander Looby defended the students who had been arrested in the Nashville sit-ins to achieve integration of public places. His law associates Avon Nyanza Williams and Robert E. Lillard also were part of the defense team. Looby and Lillard had been the first African Americans on the council since 1911.

As a result of Looby’s support of the students, his house on Meharry Boulevard, across the street from the Medical College, was dynamited by segregationists on April 19, 1960. The house was nearly destroyed by the powerful bomb, which also blew out 140 windows at Meharry Medical College, resulting in minor injuries to students. Miraculously, neither Looby nor his wife, Grafta Mosby Looby, was harmed in the bombing. Afterward students from Fisk University led 2500 protesters on a silent walk to city hall, where they confronted Mayor Ben West.

Diane Nash asked West, “Do you feel it is wrong to discriminate against a person solely on the basis of their race or color?” Mayor West said “yes,” later explaining, “It was a moral question – one that a man had to answer, not a politician.” By May of that year, lunch counters in Nashville were desegregated. By October, Looby and his team gained dismissal of the charges against 91 students “for conspiracy to disrupt trade and commerce.”

Along leaving the Looby site, Jeff McGruder welcomed the group to the main branch of Citizens Bank on Jefferson Street, where he shared their plans to celebrate their 120 years of continuous operation during TSU Homecoming in the Fall. All along the walk, Nicholas Garvin served as a highly knowledgeable resource of the history of the Fisk and Meharry communities and notable alumni.

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