Tennessee history

Legislative study committee to take a look back at TN lynchings

Tennessee is taking a tentative step toward acknowledging its legacy of lynching and other civil rights crimes, reports WPLN, citing a bill approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

In all, 238 Tennesseans are documented to have been lynched. The crimes include hangings, beatings and drownings.

State Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, pushed a bill through the legislature this year that creates a study committee of three state representatives and three senators. (Note: It’s HB1306, sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris). The group will hash out details — or even if the commission is something Tennessee desires.

Turner has no doubts.

“There are a lot of cases out there — unsolved, civil rights murders,” she says. “It is extremely urgent that we do something now before it becomes too late.”

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Puerto Rico statehood advocates follow 1796 ‘Tennessee Plan’ (but without support of today’s TN legislators)

Tennessee has been getting name-dropped during the recent attention on whether the island of Puerto Rico will become the 51st state because of a move that Tennessee forefathers took more than two centuries ago, reports WPLN — with a link to a website promoting Puerto Rico statehood under the headline, ‘Tennessee and the Tennessee Plan.’

In the recent legislative session, the current Tennessee legislature balked at a proposal to declare support for Puerto Rico statehood.

More than 200 years ago, Tennessee was still a territory and its early settlers were impatient — hoping for Congress to start the process toward statehood. Instead, local leaders went ahead and declared the territory a state. The people voted in favor, a government was formed and a constitution written. Then the trick was to persuade Congress to make all of those moves official, and that did happen in 1796.

Since then, six other states have used this aggressive method to move toward statehood.

Earlier this month, residents of Puerto Rico voted in favor of becoming a state (despite a ballot process that was messy and drew scant turnout).  Those in favor are still running with the results, continuing with the tactic of fake-it-till-you-make-it.

NBC News reports that a delegation of seven — meant to resemble two senators and five House members — will petition Congress and lobby for support. Just like Tennessee did.

Note: State Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown, sponsored a resolution (HJR31) in the 2017 legislative session that, as originally drafted, urged Congress to approve statehood for Puerto Rico.  It was substantially watered down via amendment to instead urge Congress “to work with the territorial government of Puerto Rico to ensure a definitive and authoritative act of democratic self-determination” in the then-upcoming election. In that form, the resolution passed the House 53-24 on April 20. But it then died in the Senate Finance Committee, which never brought the matter up for a vote before adjournment of the session.

New $2.5M anti-litter campaign: ‘Nobody Trashes Tennessee’ succeeds ‘Tennessee Trash’

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has launched a new anti-litter campaign under the slogan “Nobody Trashes Tennessee,” including a TV spot that is perhaps somewhat reminiscent of the old “Tennessee Trash” TV campaign, launched back in the late 1970s.

The “Tennessee Trash” commercial, which became fairly famous, featured a scruffy-looking fellow in a convertible throwing litter all over the landscape and a song including the line: “Ain’t no lower class than Tennessee trash.” Some argued it made the fellow sort of a role model rather than discouraging litter.

The latest TV spot features a young woman driver casually tossing a single drink cup and straw out her car window – then later shows her awakening as a wall caves in and a truck load of trash is dumped into her bedroom as the narrator talks about Tennessee’s litter problems.

Here is the old

Here is the new

TDOT has a news release HERE. The Times Free Press has an article on the new campaign, including some information on the research — including polling and focus groups – that led to its development. An excerpt:

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Eight new TN sites added to National Register of Historic Places

News release from Tennessee Historical Commission

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Historical Commission announced today (May 19) the addition of eight Tennessee sites to the National Register of Historic Places.

“As Tennessee grows, it is important to recognize the unique historic places that help define us,” said Patrick McIntyre, state historic preservation officer and executive director of the Tennessee Historical Commission. “The National Register is an honorary designation that emphasizes the importance of these special properties worth maintaining and passing along to future generations.”

Eight sites recently added to the National Register of Historic Places are:

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Legislative mandate on teaching TN history gets 11th hour revival

In the windup of the legislative session, the House and Senate unanimously voted to require teaching of a semester on Tennessee history in public schools, a quick action that followed a long-running debate in and out of the legislative hallways.

 Chalkbeat Tennessee reports the move comes just as the state is poised to poised to adopt new social studies standards that include fewer state-specific history facts.

But the bill (HB1169, as amended and approved) doesn’t specify when the semester of Tennessee history teaching will occur and how it would bit into teaching of other subjects.

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Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump and the Civil War

President Donald Trump’s latest commentary on President Andrew Jackson – following Trump’s tour of the Jackson home near Nashville and including  a suggestion that the Tennessean could have prevented the Civil War – has sparked national media commentary on Trump’s apparent lack of knowledge about history.

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N.B. Forrest resolution brings Sparks apology, Black Caucus condemnation

Members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators Thursday denounced a House resolution approved – by subterfuge, they said – that includes language praising Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The remarks followed a House speech by Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, saying “no offense to the Black Caucus was intended” by his actions and saying he apologized to those offended. Sparks had sponsored a resolution that honored both Forrest and Sampson Keeble, the first black legislator to serve in Tennessee.

But after that measure was scuttled in committee, he won approval on the House “consent calendar” of a separate resolution that some of the same language praising Forrest that was part of the defeated resolution. The second resolution said in its title, or caption, that it honored a Louisiana pastor who also wrote a book on Forrest. An AP story on the House unwittingly praising the controversial Forrest was distributed nationally Wednesday evening. (Previous post HERE.)

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‘Unwittingly’ approved House resolution includes praise for Nathan Bedford Forrest

The House has unwittingly approved a resolution that touts the achievements of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest after some members thought that idea had been killed in a committee, reports the Associated Press.

Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, an African-American, says state Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, “pulled a fast one” in getting HR97 approved by the House on a unanimous “consent calendar” vote on April 13. That was two days after HJR92, his original resolution, died in the House State Government Committee.

The first resolution jointly honored Forrest and Sampson Keeble, Tennessee’s first black state legislator. The portion honoring Forrest was deleted by Sparks during the committee hearing, but the panel still blocked approving the portion praising Keeble with Shaw, a leading critic, saying Sparks should return next year with a “clean resolution” dealing only with Keeble. (Previous post HERE.)

Sparks incorporated some of the same language on Forrest into the second resolution, which is dedicated to honoring Shane Kastler, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La., and author of the book, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption, which recounts how the former slave trader “advocated for black civil rights” late in life.

“He pulled a fast one,” Shaw said. “I don’t think I owe any recognition to Mr. Forrest at all. If I could take my vote back, I would.

Sparks was unapologetic for his colleagues not knowing about the content of his resolution before they voted on it.

“Well, whose fault is that?” he said. “I can’t speak on 1,500 bills and a myriad of resolutions that come up here.”

Sparks said his resolution doesn’t hide Forrest’s leadership of the Klan or that he earned his fortune before the Civil War as a slave trader. But Sparks said that later in life, Forrest renounced the Klan, “became a Christian and stood up for African-Americans.”

Forrest supporters point to his speech before the all black “Jubilee of Pole Bearers” in Memphis in 1875 where he spoke of putting black citizens into jobs at law offices, stores and farms and gave a black woman a kiss on the cheek, which was forbidden back then.

Note: There’s a format difference between the two resolutions. The first was a House joint resolution, which means it was initiated in the House with the intent of being forwarded to the Senate for approval there as well. The second is just a House resolution, meaning it does not go to the Senate and stands alone with House-only approval.

Senators pass & praise teaching TN history as a separate course

News release from Senate Republican Caucus

NASHVILLE, April 25, 2017 — The Senate unanimously approved a bill Monday evening that would require Tennessee’s public schools to go back to teaching at least one full semester of Tennessee history. Senate Bill 631, sponsored by Deputy Speaker Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), is named for the late Senator Douglas Henry, who was a great devotee of Tennessee history and who devoted much of his public life to its cause.

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Old TRA/PSC/PUC building to be sold at auction by state

More than two acres of state-owned property in downtown Nashville, formerly used by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (previously known as the Public Service Commission and soon to be known again by its ancient label of Public Utilities Commission), is being sold at auction on June 21, reports The Tennessean.

Chattanooga-based Compass Auctions & Real Estate LLC will oversee the auction… (of) two tracts on the north side of James Robertson Parkway and Gay Street … (including) a 45,294 square foot office building on the roughly 1.18 acres at 460 James Robertson Parkway (that) once housed the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (and)… the 0.87-acre parking lot site (nearby) will be offered in two separate, but adjoining, parcels and as a whole.

David Roberson, a spokesman for the state’s Department of General Services, said state law allows sale of properties by auction. “Because this is a high-profile property, we decided an auction would produce the highest and best price for Tennessee taxpayers,” he added.

Justin Ochs, vice president of national development for auction and real estate company Compass, said the property located near the NewsChannel 5 Network headquarters is already drawing interest from across the country.

“Downtown Nashville has become a place where families want to live and businesses want to operate,” he said.

Note: The TRA, once a major player on the Tennessee political scene under the name Public Service Commission, has become somewhat incidental in the overall lay of the state governmental landscape in the last couple of decades and is deemed no longer worthy of having a headquarters building (probably appropriately). The agency’s name is also being changed again in its days of dwindling significance to its original name — or, well, pretty close to it. See previous post HERE.