Jefferson Street (Nashville)

Coordinates: 36°10′29.51″N 86°47′7.53″W / 36.1748639°N 86.7854250°W / 36.1748639; -86.7854250
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[1]36°10′29.51″N 86°47′7.53″W / 36.1748639°N 86.7854250°W / 36.1748639; -86.7854250 Jefferson Street is a street in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., which developed as the historic center of the city's African-American community. Three historically black universities are located near here: Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University. In the 1940s-1960s, it attracted many rock and roll as well as rhythm and blues artists. It was a center for the Nashville sit-ins in the 1960s, but the construction of Interstate 40 across the street in 1968 led to its economic decline. Since 2013, Lorenzo Washington and his staff at the Jefferson Street Sound, formerly Club Baron, the sole preserved neighborhood club,[2] run walking tours and programs interpreting the music history of the 1940s through 1960s.[3]


In the Antebellum era, the street was a footpath running "from the Hadley plantation on the west to the Cumberland River on the east".[4] It later was improved as a road for wagons and horses.[4] During the American Civil War, it was straddled by Fort Gilliam, a Union Army camp, and a "large campus of runaway slaves were opened in the area."[5] The street was named in honor of U.S President Thomas Jefferson.[5]

After the war, Fisk University was established here and Fort Gilliam became the site of its main building, Jubilee Hall, constructed in 1872.[5][6] The campus of Tennessee State University was built across Hadley Park, on the western tip of Jefferson Street.[6] By the 1930s, the Meharry Medical College was relocated west of Fisk University from its original location in South Nashville.[4] The street was surrounded by three historically black universities.[6]

By the 1920s–1930s, the street became a popular neighborhood among the black middle class,[5] and many churches, such as Mount Zion Baptist Church, Pleasant Green Baptist Missionary Church and Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, were built here.[7]

In the 1940s–1960s, the street's entertainment venues were a center for rock'n'roll as well as rhythm and blues.[8][9] Artists including Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Otis Redding and Billy Cox played in clubs such as the Del Morocco, the New Era Club, Maceo's, Club Baron or Club Stealaway.[10][11]

During the Civil Rights era, the street became a center for organizing the Nashville sit-ins.[12] While the protests took place elsewhere (including in Downtown Nashville), activists planned their protests on Jefferson Street, and they were supported by "Jefferson Street business owners and residents."[12]

In the late 1960s, Interstate 40 was built across Jefferson Street, which broke up the black community and contributed heavily to its economic decline.[5][13] In the 1950s, the interstate had been projected to be built near the campus of Vanderbilt University, then a whites-only university, but city officials changed their minds in the 1960s.[13] As a result, many African-American residents were displaced and moved to the Bordeaux area in North Nashville.[5]

By the 2000s, residents attempted to "revitalize" the Jefferson Street community.[14] In 2017, it was decided that the music history of Jefferson Street would be chronicled in the National Museum of African American Music due to open in 2019.[13] The museum will be located on 5th and Broadway, near the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, far from Jefferson Street.[13]

In March 2017, the Muslim American Cultural Center, a new mosque, opened on the street.[15]

In May 2019, media coverage suggested African-American property owners were being pressured into selling their buildings to developers, who reported them for coding violations if they refused to sell.[16][17]


  1. ^ I'll take you there : Nashville stories of place, power, and the struggle for social justice. Amie Thurber, Learotha, Jr. Williams. Nashville. 2021. ISBN 978-0-8265-0153-0. OCLC 1230249956.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ McKenna, Brittney (December 8, 2016). "Lorenzo Washington on Preserving Nashville's Blues and R&B Epicenter". Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  3. ^ Thurber, Amie; Williams, Learotha, eds. (2021). I'll take you there: Nashville stories of place, power, and the struggle for social justice. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 978-0-8265-0153-0.
  4. ^ a b c Mitchell, Reavis L. Jr. (1999). "Jefferson Street" (PDF). Leaders of Afro-American Nashville. Tennessee State University. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Deville, Nancy (June 24, 2004). "Footpath became heart of city's black middle class. From the '40s to '60s, Jefferson Street was among the best-known music districts in the nation". The Tennessean. pp. 1, 11. Retrieved May 6, 2018 – via
  6. ^ a b c Jordan, Karen; North, Amber (June 24, 2004). "A closer look at Higher learning near Jefferson Street". The Tennessean. p. 9. Retrieved May 6, 2018 – via
  7. ^ Moore, Rick (June 24, 2004). "Three Jefferson Street churches have been serving worshippers since the 1800s". The Tennessean. pp. 8–9. Retrieved May 6, 2018 – via
  8. ^ Cooper, Daniel (December 12, 1996). "Scuffling: The Lost History of Nashville Rhythm & Blues". Nashville Scene. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  9. ^ Paulson, Dave (November 13, 2017). "Nashville rock music was cemented on Jefferson Street and Elliston Place". The Tennessean. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  10. ^ Hill, Lebron (February 8, 2018). "Jefferson Street Comes to Centennial Performing Arts Studio on Saturday". Nashville Scene. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  11. ^ McKenna, Brittney (December 8, 2016). "Lorenzo Washington on Preserving Nashville's Blues and R&B Epicenter". Nashville Scene. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Mielczarek, Natalia (June 24, 2004). "Jefferson Street was 'mecca' for sit-in movement". The Tennessean. pp. 8–9. Retrieved May 6, 2018 – via
  13. ^ a b c d Follett, Matt; Watson, Brady (December 18, 2017). "Reviving Nashville's Jefferson Street R&B Scene in Museums Small and Large". WMOT. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  14. ^ Soltes, Fiona (June 24, 2004). "A multigenerational commitment to a community. Entrepreneurs, educators carry on family's dreams in effort to revitalize Jefferson Street". The Tennessean. p. 7. Retrieved May 6, 2018 – via
  15. ^ Reicher, Mike (March 25, 2017). "Nashville's newest mosque opens on historic Jefferson Street". The Tennessean. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  16. ^ Horan, Kyle (May 30, 2019). "Jefferson Street gentrification exposes racial fault lines". News Channel 5. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  17. ^ Judge, Monique (May 31, 2019). "Greedy Developers Try to Bully 94-Year-Old Black Woman Out of Her Property in Nashville". The Root. Retrieved June 2, 2019.