Publications to Note
By Linda T. Wynn, Assistant Director for State Programs & Publications Editor
Vanderbilt University Press, PMB 401813, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37240-1813
To Care for the Sick and Bury the Dead: African American Lodges and Cemeteries in Tennessee Slavery in Tennessee by Leigh Ann Gardner is one of the first books that delves into African American lodges and cemeteries in Tennessee. Between 1865 and 1930, organizations such as Benevolent Orders, the Sons of Ham, Prince Hall Freemasons, and other such African American organizations provided a social safety net for members with numerous resources that range from sick benefits and assurance of a proper burial, opportunities for socialization and leadership, and the opportunity to work with local congregations and educational institutions to create better communities.
A native Nashvillian, Gardner started her career as an archivist. Later she earned a master’s degree in Public History with an emphasis on Historic Preservation. She worked at MTSU as a research coordinator and awards manager. Currently, she works as a Grants Manager in the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary, and Critical Care Medicine. Gardner gained an interest in the subject of this tome during her graduate days at Middle Tennessee State University. The relatively unexplored subject by historians. Some study fraternalism in general, while others study benevolent groups such as the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers, of focus on women’s associations like the Order of the Eastern Star. After a cursory search of the literature, there is little to be found on African American lodge cemeteries, particularly in Tennessee. Notwithstanding, some work is being done on Prince Hall Order of the Eastern Star and the Women Dedicated to the African American Communal Experience in Tennessee.
Each of the three Grand Divisions in Tennessee contain African American lodge cemeteries, and these cemeteries are important resources in learning more about African American lodges, their members,and how African American fraternal groups continue to endure as community institutions into the twenty-first century. Gardner’s To Care for the Sick and Bury the Dead: African American Lodges and Cemeteries in Tennessee is a must-have for genealogists, historians, and family members of the people buried in these cemeteries. Cloth, $ 28.95
Another book published by Vanderbilt University Press is
The People’s Plaza: Sixty-Two Day of Nonviolent Resistance by Justin Jones is a first-person account of hope, a statement of intent, and a blueprint for nonviolent resistance in the American South and elsewhere. From June 12, 2020, until the passage of the state lawmaking the occupation a felony two months later, peaceful protesters set up camp at Nashville’s Legislative Plaza and renamed it for Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist from Memphis,Tennessee, who served as editor of the Memphis Free Speech. The tornado of March 2020 decimated Nashvillians lives, and later COVID-19 altered the lives not only of Nashvillians and Tennesseans but the lives of Americans across the country. The killing of African Americans Ahmaud Arbery, Georgia; Breonna Taylor, Kentucky; and George Floyd, Minneapolis, by law enforcement officers. After the video showing killing of George Floyd went viral, Americans of all hues marched and called for justice. Jones (a newly elected state representative), alumnus of Fisk University and a graduate student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, whose place at the forefront of the protests brought him and the occupation to the attention of the Tennessee state troopers, state and US senators, and Governor Bill Lee. The outcome was two months of unity in the face of rampant abuse and standoff after standoff at the doorsteps of the people’s house with those who claimed to represent them. With a foreword by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, minister, social activist, and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, in this, his first book, Jones describes those two months of nonviolent resistance against a “police state that sought to dehumanize its citizens.” As the Reverend Dr. Barber asserts in the foreword, Jones’ memoir is “more than a snapshot of a grassroots struggle for justice. . .it is also a window through which we can understand the spiritual strivings and understandable doubts of a generation.” Paper, $19.99
The third book published by Vanderbilt University Press is The Sculpture of William Edmonson: Tombstones, Garden Ornaments, and Stonework by Marin R. Sullivan. The limestone carvings of sculptor William Edmondson came to the attention of the art world when Louise Dahl-Wolfe, a New York photographer with Harper’s Bazaar saw his works while visiting Nashville. She took photographs of Edmondson and his work and later showed them to the director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art Alfred Barr. Impressed with Edmondson’s sculptures, Barr arranged an exhibition of for Edmondson in 1937. The museum mounted ten of Edmondson’s sculptures, making Edmondson the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Prior to the New York exhibit, the limestone carvings of William Edmondson were virtually unknown beyond his South Nashville neighborhood. In 2020, a historical marker was placed at the William Edmonson Homesite and Studio in recognition of the place where Edmondson created his works of art. Between 1948 and 1964, Edmondson’s stone carvings were exhibited in Nashville at the Spring Festival of Arts at Fisk University, the Nashville Artist Guild, Peabody College for Teachers, and Tennessee Arts Center at Cheekwood. An exhibition of Edmondson’s work did not appear in Tennessee, until 1981, when the Tennessee State Museum exhibited William Edmondson: A Retrospective. Sullivan’s The Sculpture of William Edmonson: Tombstones, Garden Ornaments, and Stonework is a compilation of seven essays by recognized contributors and scholars. Organized by curator-at-large Marin R. Sullivan, the Cheekwood exhibition is the first large-scale examination in over twenty years. Sullivan is a Chicago-based art historian and curator-at-large at the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens and author of Sculptural Materiality in the Age of Conceptualism and Alloys: American Sculpture and Architecture at Midcentury. While the Cheekwood exhibit revisits Edmondson’s work within the framework of his artistic discovery by white patrons in the 1930s, his work’s formal resonance with primitivism and direct carving techniques, and his place in the tradition of African American “outside” art, this exhibition seeks to reevaluate his sculpture on its own terms as a part of a comprehensive practice that included the creation of commercial objects rather than strictly fine art Proclaimed by the New York Times as, "one of the greatest stone carvers of Modernism,” The Sculpture of William Edmondson: Tombstones, Garden Ornaments and Stonework recognizes the importance of his work. Paper, $9.95.