Explore Nashville’s role in the Civil Rights Movement by spending some time visiting the officially-designated stops in the city on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. You can then continue the trail to Clinton in East Tennessee to hear the inspiring story that came out of this little town tucked in the Great Smoky Mountains. We’ve outlined where you could stay and dine in Nashville and Clinton, rounding out your trip itinerary along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Download the brochure or get the digital passport below:
Noelle, in Nashville’s downtown area, is a convenient location to stay after exploring Nashville’s stops along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Located on 4th Avenue, the building was built in 1930 and has always been at the center of Nashville’s vibrancy. Today, the hotel provides modern decor throughout the property, a beautiful restaurant and airy and open rooms to its guests. Take a short walk to the downtown Civil Rights Trails locations and take in Nashville’s iconic city vibe.
In the heart of downtown Nashville, Woolworth Theatre is now a restored restaurant and live music venue that pays homage to the early days of the civil rights movement. In 1960, it was the site of peaceful sit-ins by African-American students who challenged Woolworth and other stores that did not allow Black and white customers to eat at the same counter. While the sit-ins were peaceful, the reactions of some whites were not. This was the site of civil rights hero John Lewis’ first arrest in his lifelong fight for equality.
Step inside the immaculate Nashville Public Library and climb the marble stairs to the second floor where you’ll find the Civil Rights Room, a space for education and exploration of the Civil Rights collection which includes black-and-white photographs of the events surrounding Nashville during the 50s and 60s. A symbolic lunch counter can be found along with a Ten Rules of Conduct protestors adhered to during their peaceful sit-ins and a timeline of local and national events. You can even see the intersection of Church Street and Seventh Avenue North through the library’s large windows where nonviolent protests against segregated lunch counters occurred. The Room is open during regular library hours to the public.
Make your way to 14th Avenue North in downtown Nashville to see the Clark Memorial United Methodist Church that served as a meeting site for many civil rights efforts. James Lawson hosted nonviolent protest workshops in 1958 at the church and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had the Southern Christian Leadership Conference annual meeting there in 1961.
After the home of Z. Alexander Looby, a lawyer for civil rights cases, was bombed, students and others met and marched to the Davidson County Courthouse where they met with Mayor Ben West who conceded that segregation was immoral and that the city's lunch counter should be desegregated. Located next to the Courthouse, "Witness Walls," created by artist Walter Hood, tells the stories of the events and the people who made civil rights history in Nashville. School desegregation, marches, meetings, Freedom Rides, lunch counter sit-ins and economic boycotts are represented on the concrete walls. Witness Walls was dedicated in 2017 and is a project of the Metro Nashville Arts Commission’s Percent for Public Art Program.
Housed in Nashville’s first-ever skyscraper - the L&C Tower, Deacon’s New South is a steakhouse that features Southern favorites with locally-sourced produce and protein when possible. Make your dinner memorable by ordering the diver scallops that come with cauliflower and olives in a beurre blanc sauce, a crafted cocktail from the extensive menu, and the apple jack stack – boozy apple pear butter, candied walnuts and apple cider vinegar gastrique – for dessert.
Fisk University is the oldest university in Nashville. The first African American university to receive accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Fisk University students were instrumental in many of the sit-in demonstrations throughout Nashville. You can learn about the university’s history and some of its famous alumni including Ida B. Wells-Barnett and U.S. Representative John Lewis. Thurgood Marshall (the first African-American Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) was among the early participants in Charles S. Johnson's famous Race Relations Institute at Fisk. You can also visit the extensive art collection in the Carl Van Vechten Gallery.
Stroll through one of Nashville's premier parks, Centennial Park which features a replica of the Parthenon of Athens, Greece. The structure is a nods to one of Nashville's longstanding nicknames, "Athens of the South."A one-mile walking trail, Lake Watauga, historical monuments, a band shell and sunken garden are just some of the things you can experience at this 132-acre natural retreat.
Start your night off with one of the signature cocktails crafted at Germantown Pub. The Cumberland Cooler is a refreshing choice with Hendricks Gin, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, cucumber, a splash of lime juice and simple syrup. The Honeysuckle Lemonade is a boozy Arnold Palmer with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, honey water and lemon juice. Blackberry sangria, a selection of beers on draft and wine are also available. Pair your drink of choice with one of Germantown Pub’s delicious burgers like the GTP Burger featuring a fried egg, Swiss cheese lettuce, tomato and onion or the Gerst Burger with Yazoo Gerst beer-braised onions served on a pretzel bun. Wings smothered in sauces like Nashville hot to garlic parmesan, buffalo and the special Germantown are also on the menu as well as salads, chicken and waffles, fish and chips and more.
The National Museum of African American Music is now a stop on the Tennessee portion of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the many music genres created, influenced and inspired by African Americans. The “One Nation Under a Groove” gallery is focused on how music inspired the Civil Rights Movement and evolved with the issues of the day. Educational programs, programming and events spotlight the achievements and influences of African American music.
Griggs Hall was the 1st building constructed on the campus of American Baptist College, a seminary for Black students. It became the center for non-violent training and activity in the Nashville area, especially the Nashville sit-in program. Tours are available by appointment only. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
Depart for Clinton.
Stretch your legs after the drive on the many hiking trails found at Norris Dam State Park near Clinton. If you want an easy stroll, select the Lakeside Trail which is in close proximity to the historical Norris Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s first dam built under President Roosevelt’s New Deal. For a moderate challenge, try the 1.95-mile Andrew’s Ridge Trail which has minor elevation changes and winds through remnants of the old home sites that were once on the ridge prior to Norris Dam. The state park has backcountry camping on top of Andrews Ridge with beautiful views as well as two campgrounds with a centrally-located bathhouse. A laundromat is located next to the park office. There are also 10 cabins with three bedrooms, one bathroom, living room and kitchen. Enjoy the sounds of nature on the porch, around the picnic table or fire pit.
Your historic stay can be found at the Cabins on Cedar Ridge. These cabins are 1860-er log cabins that have been renovated with today’s amenities. Enjoy the wood-burning fireplace; make delicious meals in the fully-equipped kitchen; enjoy free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, two bedrooms and one bathroom.
Have dinner in downtown Clinton at the Apple Blossom Café, a family-owned establishment. Try a variety of salads from the fried shrimp salad to the club salad with ham, turkey, bacon, cheese and potato sticks. Entrees include southern classics like country style steak, grilled catfish, country fried chicken that come with your choice of sides like turnip greens, Cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, fried okra and fried apples. Save room for the freshly baked cobbler or homemade chocolate cream pie.
Whether you prefer savory or sweet breakfasts, Master Donuts in downtown Clinton delivers. Sausage kolaches, a variety of glazed, cream stuffed and sprinkled donuts and breakfast biscuits are available. Take a few selections on the road with you as you explore Clinton. It’s likely you’ll be back for more.
You can easily spend a whole morning or afternoon visiting the Museum of Appalachia, a 65-acre pioneer mountain village dedicated to telling the stories of those who settled in the mountains and hollers of the region. More than 250,000 artifacts in three buildings are on display ranging from musical instruments to Native American pieces, folk art, quilts and an actual post office that served the village of Arthur, Tennessee as well as a replica of a country store. Thirty-five log structures like cabins, barns, churches and schools are erected around the property bringing history to life.
Dine at an authentic soda fountain lunch counter at Hoskins Drug Store and order the day's lunch specials, full breakfast with biscuits and gravy, home cooked vegetables and grilled sandwiches. Finish your meal with a milkshake, malt or a banana split. Stop in the gift shop and wander the full-service pharmacy. It's a step back in time in Clinton, Tennessee.
Visitors can learn about the courageous story of the Clinton 12 at the Green McAdoo Cultural Center. Step inside a 1950s classroom and see what life was like under "Jim Crow" laws. Follow the chronological story of the desegregation of the Clinton High School with life-size photographs and narratives.
Tennessee has 14 stops on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Discover them here.