Black History Month

Mayor

Madeline Rogero
mayor@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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  BLACK HISTORY IN THE CITY
  FIRE
  First African-American Volunteer Fire Department Formed in 1868
  One of City's 1st African - American Firefighters Rose Through the Ranks
  Listen to Knoxville Fire Chief Stan Sharp Talk About Integration in KFD
  POLICE
  Knoxville Police Department Integrated Since 1882
  Listen to Knoxville Police Chief Rausch Talk About Integration in KPD
  KAT
  KAT's 1st African-American Female Driver Had Something to Prove
  Listen to Geraldetta Dozier Talk About Driving for KAT
   
  NOTED KNOXVILLIANS
  CAL JOHNSON
  City Continues to Help Preserve Cal Johnson's Legacy
  Cal Johnson, Knoxville's First African-American Millionaire
  Listen to Historian & Civil Rights Activist Robert J. Booker Talk About Cal Johnson
  Cal Johnson Park and Cal Johnson Rec Center
  PAUL HOGUE
  How Basketball Took Paul Hogue from Five Points to the NBA
  Paul Hogue Park
  ALEX HALEY
  Literary 'Roots' Embodied in One of Knoxville's Landmarks
  Alex Haley Heritage Square
  ROBERT J. "BOB" BOOKER
  Listen to Bob Booker Talk About Live Music at the Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park
  Listen to Bob Booker Talk About Seeing Movies in Segrated Knoxville
  Bob Booker Honored by Knoxville History Project
  Listen to the Q & A with Bob Booker and Jack Neely of the Knoxville History Project [MP3]
  Booker's New Book Traces Black Experience in Knoxville
  NIKKI GIOVANNI
  Learn More About Nikki 
  W. JAMES TAYLOR
  From Tennessee Theatre Porter to Painter
  The Story of W. James Taylor
   
  POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT IN KNOXVILLE
  African-American Political Engagement in Knoxville Dates Back to Mid-1800s
  Listen to Knoxville's First African-American Mayor Daniel T. Brown
   
  OTHER LINKS
  BECK CULTURAL EXCHANGE CENTER
  Beck Cultural Exchange Center
  New Mural at Beck Cultural Exchange Center
  ODD FELLOWS CEMETERY
  Restoration of Odd Fellows Cemetery Continues with City Support
  Film Pays Tribute to Civil War Solders Interred in Odd Fellows Cemetery
  Odd Fellows Cemetery Ribbon Cutting - 04/30/2012
  THE TRAVELERS' GREEN BOOK
  The Travelers' Green Book in Knoxville
  View Historic Copies of the Green Book at NY Library Digital Collections
  KNOXVILLE COMMEMORATIONS
  Civil Rights Act of 1964 Commemoration in Knoxville
  Voting Rights Act of 1965 Commemoration in Knoxville
   
The Travelers' Green Book

Travelers' Green BookThe "Green Book," a travel guide created for African Americans from the 1930s through to 1960s, was brought to the notice of many people this year through a movie by the same name that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The Beck Cultural Exchange Center has used a photocopy of the 1956 Green Book as a teaching tool for many years. The Green Book illustrates the realities for African Americans traveling in the South during a time when Jim Crow laws allowed businesses to discriminate against people of color, determining where they could stay and eat in America. The actual title of the book was the “Negro Motorist (later Travelers') Green Book,” and it was published from 1936 to 1966.
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Bob Booker Recalls Entertainment Venues in Segregated Knoxville

Gem Theatre photo from Thompson Photo CollectionTo say that Robert J. “Bob” Booker is busy in February is an understatement. The author, historian, Knoxville College graduate, military veteran, former state legislator and co-founder of the Beck Cultural Center is a priceless resource for stories and details of Knoxville history, especially the history of the African-American residents who have shaped our city. It stands to reason that his calendar is booked solid during Black History Month with interviews, speaking engagements, and book signings—all on top of the deadlines for his regular columns published in the News Sentinel.
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Listen to Bob Booker Talk About Live Music at Chilhowee Park

Historian Robert J. "Bob" Booker spoke to City of Knoxville communications staff about seeing live music at the Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park, when audiences were racially segregated.





Listen to Bob Booker Talk About Seeing Movies in Segrated Knoxville

Historian Robert J. "Bob" Booker spoke to City of Knoxville communications staff about going to the Bijou Theatre as a boy to see a movie with his white friends and using different entrances.





Restoration of Odd Fellows Cemetery Continues with City Support

Odd Fellows CemeteryIt had become a field of weeds and destroyed tombstones. Odd Fellows Cemetery, one of Knoxville’s first African-American cemeteries, was neglected and overgrown. Then, in 2009, a community restoration effort began with the University of Tennessee School of Architecture, the volunteer-based Knoxville ReAnimation Coalition and the City of Knoxville. Established by various civic groups in the early 1880s, Odd Fellows serves as the resting place for some of the city's most prominent early black residents, including Cal Johnson, Knoxville's first black millionaire. 
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City Continues to Help Preserve Cal Johnson's Legacy

Cal Johnson Park EntranceThe City of Knoxville has long been involved in preserving the legacy of one of its most notable sons: Caldonia Fackler Johnson. Born into slavery in a room at the Farragut Hotel in 1844, and freed at the age of 21, this pioneering African-American entrepreneur became Knoxville’s first black millionaire, a business owner, civic leader and philanthropist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He died in 1925. 
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Booker Honored by Knoxville History Project 

Bob BookerThe Knoxville History Project honored Robert J. Booker on April 17, 2018 for his significant contributions to recording and preserving the history and culture of Knoxville. Booker grew up in the “Bottom” area of East Knoxville, and graduated from Austin High School in 1953. Following a three year stint in the U.S. Army, stationed in France and England, Booker returned to his hometown to study at Knoxville College on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1962 with a B.S. in Education. At Knoxville College, as a two-term president of the student body, Booker became involved in Knoxville’s Civil Rights movement, organizing sit-ins to advance desegregation. In 1966 he was elected as Knoxville’s first black Tennessee State Representative. In the 1970’s he served as administrative assistant to Mayor Kyle Testerman, and on the Tennessee Civil Service Commission. Later he served on Knoxville City Council. For 11 years, he was the executive director for the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. 
Read More  |  Listen to Q&A with KHP's Jack Neely [MP3]



New Mural at Beck Cultural Exchange Center Promotes Local Heritage

Mural at Beck CenterThe Beck Cultural Exchange Center, a non-profit museum that preserves African-American history of the region, unveiled an art piece in February 2018 that celebrates the roots and lineage of local African-Americans. "At Beck, we are dedicated to the rich legacy of great people, places, and artifacts that make up this beautiful region of our country,” said Renee Kesler, President of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. “This art piece is an example of our generational roots and our continuing family heritage, including photos of local families involved in the entire community.”
Read More  |  Learn about the Beck Cultural Exchange Center



KAT's 1st African-American Female Driver Had Something to Prove


Geraldetta DozierGeraldetta Dozier was walking home one day when she happened to look up as a bus topped the hill on Harriet Tubman Street. To her surprise, a woman was driving. "I said, 'Wow,' and I walked right over to the bus offices, which at that time were at Jessamine Street and Fifth Avenue," Dozier said. "I was a student, living in the projects, a single mother raising my baby. I needed to make some money. "I thought: If she can do it, so can I." Dozier, now 68, made good on her impulsive career choice. She earned her chauffeur's license (now, a Commercial Driver's License), and in May 1976 was hired as the City's first female African-American bus operator in Knoxville. Dozier came on board and drove for Knoxville Area Transit during a pivotal time in the transit service's history. Just a decade earlier, the City of Knoxville had gotten itself into the transit business. 
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Listen to Geraldetta Dozier Talk About Driving for KAT





Knoxville Police Department Integrated Since 1882


KPDAfter the Civil War, the Knoxville Police Department made history. It hired the City's first African-American police officer in 1882 - and continued to recruit and hire black officers, even at a time when it was virtually unheard of to have minority representation in the uniformed ranks. Moses Smith was the first African-American police officer in Knoxville, says Civil Rights pioneer and historian Robert J. Booker. Smith served on the Knoxville police force for several years before being appointed as a federal marshal. Additionally, Smith served on the City's Board of Aldermen in 1874 and again in 1878. How rare was Smith's employment as a black police officer in 1882? It was extremely unusual. After the Reconstruction era ended, Knoxville was one of just five cities in the South with African-American police officers in its department, according to Booker. The four other cities were located in Texas. The Police Department hired its second full-time African-American police officer, James Mason, in 1884. 
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Listen to Knoxville Police Chief Rausch Talk About Integration in KPD





First African-American Volunteer Fire Department Formed in 1868

KFDIn 1854, the first volunteer fire department in Knoxville formed with 100 volunteers. Fourteen years later, in 1868, William F. Yardley and William Luttrell formed a separate African-American volunteer fire department - and Yardley served as its first fire chief. However, while African-Americans have been protecting lives and property from fires in Knoxville for 149 years, they weren't paid and professionally trained by the City until the 1950s. And the City maintained segregated fire halls for another decade. “In some ways, Knoxville was progressive, and in many other ways, we lagged behind,” says Fire Chief Stan Sharp, who studies KFD's history and cherishes its rare historic photos. Sharp, who places a high priority on diversity, bemoans the City's slowness in hiring African-American firefighters and integrating its fire halls. "The Fire Department organized in 1885 as a paid department, but it remained segregated for the next 80 or so years," Sharp says.
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Listen to Knoxville Fire Chief Stan Sharp Talk About Integration in KFD





One of City's 1st African-American Firefighters Rose Through the Ranks

Luther BradleyAs a young man, Luther Bradley never envisioned how his life and career would unfold. Then in 1952, an opportunity at the Knoxville Fire Department presented itself. Mayor George Dempster decided to hire African-American firefighters for the first time. Bradley and 10 other African-American men were hired and trained for Fire Department duties. The firefighters, housed at the Engine Company No. 4 fire station in East Knoxville, started battling fires and protecting families on Aug. 6, 1952, after only about a month of training. “I never, in my early years, dreamed of becoming a fireman,” says Bradley, who made firefighting his career. He served as captain and later was assigned as the fire inspector for the Fire Prevention Bureau. Seven years after his promotion to fire inspector, he became assistant chief in charge of the bureau. Then in 1980, Luther Bradley was promoted to Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal. He was born on Aug. 2, 1927, in Knoxville to Roy Bradley and Alma Hardin Bradley. Luther Bradley married Harriet E. Lee in 1948, and they have five children together.
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Listen to Former Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal Luther Bradley





African-American Political Engagement in Knoxville Dates Back to Mid-1800s

YardleyMayor Daniel T. BrownKnoxville City Councilman Daniel Brown has always embraced service - as a U.S. Army soldier in Vietnam in 1970, as a 22-year public servant with the U.S. Postal Service, and as an East Knoxville community leader. But on Jan. 10, 2011, he made Knoxville history. This was the day that Daniel Brown became Knoxville’s first African-American mayor. But while Brown was Knoxville's first African-American mayor, the City's black citizens have long been politically engaged. The first African-American aldermen were elected shortly after the Civil War, and in the early 20th century, Knoxville had a "Bronze Mayor," who was selected by votes cast through an African-American newspaper. Consider this context: In 1860, about one in four Tennesseans were living in slavery. Less than 3 percent of the 276,000 blacks in Tennessee were free. So how did African-Americans gain a foothold in politics in that era?
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Listen to Knoxville Mayor Daniel T. Brown Talk About Being the City's First African-American Mayor





Cal Johnson, Knoxville’s First African-American Millionaire

Cal JohnsonA former Knoxville slave made rags-to-riches history in the early 1900s, becoming Knoxville’s first African-American millionaire. Caldonia “Cal” Fackler Johnson was born a slave on Oct. 14, 1844, in Knoxville’s Farragut Hotel. Both of Cal Johnson’s parents were born slaves, belonging to the McClung family at Campbell Station. Robert J. Booker, an African-American historian and founder of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, has researched and published articles on Cal Johnson’s life. Booker’s research indicates that Johnson’s mother, Harriet McClung Johnson, learned to read and write, as evidenced by the handwritten items in her Bible. She owned and operated a “hotel/restaurant/grocery” store on Willow Street in Knoxville. 
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Listen to Historian & Civil Rights Activist Robert J. "Bob" Booker Talk About Cal Johnson





How Basketball Took Paul Hogue from Five Points to the NBA

Paul HogueFor Knoxville native Paul Hogue, basketball proved to become his ticket for living "the American dream." Paul H. "Duke" Hogue was born April 28, 1940 in Knoxville, Tennessee to Otis Thomas Hogue and Melissa Mae Holland Hogue.  Born and raised in a house on Wilson Avenue in the Five Points community, Hogue played basketball on courts in the park across the street, which was previously known as Union Square Park. He was a standout basketball player at Austin High School (where his father was principal) and Vine Junior High School.  After graduating high school in 1958, Hogue went on to play for the University of Cincinnati, where he helped bring the basketball team to two NCAA National Championships  (1961 and 1962).  A 6'9" center, he averaged 16.8 points and 12.4 rebounds per game as a senior. In 1962, Hogue was named MVP of the Final Four, U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association first team All-American, and Helms Foundation Player of the Year.
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Literary ‘Roots’ Embodied in One of Knoxville’s Landmarks

Alex Haley StatueOne of Knoxville's iconic landmarks holds the title for the second tallest statue of an African-American in the nation. Second only behind the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C., the 13-foot-tall Alex Haley statue resides in Haley Heritage Square off of Dandridge Avenue and atop Morningside Park. The bronze statue is sculpted in the likeness of Alex Haley (1921-1992), American author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Haley spent some of his earliest years in Henning, Tennessee before returning to his birth town of Ithaca, New York, and lived his final years nearby in Clinton, Tennessee. Roots was a Pulitzer prize winning 1976 novel said to help make societal breakthroughs for the African-American community by vividly depicting the experience of slavery in America beginning with capture in Africa.  
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From Tennessee Theatre Porter to Painter

w James TaylorW. James Taylor has always loved the smell of buttery popcorn and the soul-pleasing sounds of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ at the Tennessee Theatre - first as a teenager working as a porter in the 1960s, and now, as an accomplished musician and artist. In April 1963, Taylor was working when students from Knoxville College were protesting segregation of businesses on Gay Street. He'd never participated in any sit-ins or protests, but he was drawn to the demonstration outside the segregated theater. He quit his job and joined the protest. Taylor went on to experience different cities and cultures - as an artist and as a drummer in a famous funk band - before returning to Knoxville in 2010. 
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Film Pays Tribute to Civil War Solders Interred in Odd Fellows Cemetery

Odd Fellow CemeteryBe sure and view this video, "The Cemetery of Life," by local filmmaker Siam J. Manuels with the Knoxville Re-Animation Coalition and others. The documentary tells the story of the Odd Fellows Cemetery in East Knoxville, the final resting place for 30 Civil War veterans who'd served in the 1st U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery unit. The African-American soldiers are hailed as "the protectors of Knoxville." But many of their graves lack identification, and preservationists who aim to honor the families and veterans interred in Odd Fellows Cemetery have to both pick up litter and beat back invasive vegetation. The film applauds members of the coalition, City of Knoxville crews and the University of Tennessee researchers for their preservation efforts, but more work is needed to fully restore dignity and honor to Odd Fellows.  
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Watch the Cemetery of Life Video