Fort Negley Added to UNESCO Slave Route Project

FortnegleyPhoto: Eric England

Nashville’s historic Fort Negley will be designated as a “Site of Memory” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as part of its Slave Route Project.

A press conference and “Lunch & Learn” event is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, at the Civil War-era fort south of downtown, with the formal announcement at 10:30 a.m.

The nomination was prepared by Dr. Angela Sutton — who spoke to the Scene for our recent story about Vanderbilt’s Fort Negley Descendents Project — and the Nashville chapter of the NAACP and the Friends of Fort Negley Park.

“Fort Negley was the ideal candidate for nomination because it touches on every aspect of enslavement that the United States shares with other slave societies,” Sutton said in a press release. “Yet it was also a site that drew free skilled laborers of African descent looking for work, and a site where the United States Colored Troops defended the Union and fought for a better future for their descendants.”

Sutton noted that the now world-renowned parts of Nashville’s culture — from country music to culinary traditions — can be traced to the city’s African American community. In addition, the city’s legacy in education, health care and the broader Civil Rights Movement also have ties to the fort, as many of the founders of the city’s historically black colleges and universities and hospitals either helped build or were stationed at Fort Negley.

“Fort Negley and its legacy isn’t just about slavery, but about resistance to that institution, and resilience, and most importantly, recovery,” Sutton said. “This designation means that the UN believes Fort Negley to be a fundamental site in helping the world understand and fully acknowledge the injustices from slavery that persist to this day, so that we can move forward into an equitable future.”

From UNESCO

Launched in 1994, the international and inter-regional project ‘The Slave Route: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage’ addresses the history of the slave trade and slavery through the prism of intercultural dialogue, a culture of peace and reconciliation. It thereby endeavors to improve the understanding and transmission of this human tragedy by making better known its deep-seated causes, its consequences for societies today and the cultural interactions born of this history. The project is structured around five key fields of activity: scientific research, development of educational materials, preservation of written archives and oral traditions, promotion of living cultures and contributions by the African diaspora and, lastly, preservation of sites of memory.

The only other Sites of Memory in the United States are the Statue of Liberty, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, and the University of Virginia and Monticello in Charlottesville, Va. 

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