A new guidebook will be written to collect Nashville’s lesser-known stories and history. Known as “A People’s Guide To Nashville,” it’s the latest in a multi-city book series that illuminates places and events that have been ignored, giving voice to minority groups, protest movements and unsung heroes.
While the local editors are in academia, they said much of the material will come directly from the people who took part in social justice movements.
“These are the invisible people, so to speak, the folks that people see but they don’t see — people who have very, very interesting stories that they keep inside of them. And then when we bury them, we bury those stories in the cemetery,” said Lea Williams, assistant professor of African-American history at Tennessee State University.
Williams is one of three co-editors, along with Vanderbilt University associate professor Jim Fraser and doctoral student Amie Thurber.
The editors said the People’s Guide will preserve stories of resilience from the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movements and of other marginalized lives, like those of everyday people in ethnic neighborhoods. In their call for submissions, editors take on something of a defiant tone, asking for stories that challenge misinformation, celebrate cultural resistance and that reveal dominating power structures in local politics.
“A lot of times, we suffer from amnesia when it comes to history, and sometimes that amnesia is imposed from the outside,” Williams said. “I’m interested in what occurred in the margins.”
Editors Seek Diverse Stories
The book will be written as a tourist guide, with maps and daytrips for visitors, but still with relevant information for residents, newcomers and natives, Thurber said.
“It’d be the kind of thing, if it existed, that I would have bought right when I got here,” she said.
Thurber recounted hearing someone say that when visiting downtown Nashville, “once is enough” — a sentiment she wants to overcome by creating a book that helps Nashvillians keep up their curiosity about their surroundings.
“You should be able to go downtown over and over and over again and discover new things, and that should be true about every part of the city,” she said.
The book will highlight about 100 places, with more on an interactive website.
For the next year, editors are calling for written entries. Anyone can take part, and they’re courting material from an array of organizations, including neighborhood associations. To take part, visit https://my.vanderbilt.edu/peoplesguidenashville/ or email PeoplesGuideNashville@gmail.com.