Nashville travels: The arc of history in Centennial Park

Since Nashville is the “Athens of the South” — I’m curious to know what the home of the University of Georgia thinks of that — why not have a full-scale replica of The Parthenon?

Built in Centennial Park for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, The Parthenon is the city’s art museum includes a full-scale statue of Athena inside, which we were able to see this morning.

It’s large.

My wife also pointed out that there’s a sign that roller-skating, skateboarding or bicycling on The Parthenon, which the ancient Greeks probably didn’t have to worry about.

As for the modern Greeks? I don’t know, never been. If I’m ever in the actual Athens — Greece, not Georgia — I’ll check it out.

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“To the heroism of the private Confederate soldier,” “Faithful to the end,” “Duty done honor won 1861-1865.”

Those are the inscriptions on the side of the Confederate soldiers monument in Centennial Park. It’s a few hundred yards from The Parthenon; you walk past it to get there, but other than the walkway, it’s not really near anything.

It was erected in 1909, one of many in the of Conferdate monument-building during the early 1900s “toward a white supremacist future,” in the words of  Jane Dailey, an associate professor of history at the University of Chicago.”

I’m in favor of taking down Confederate statues, and don’t think much of the Confederate flag, either, to the point where I was actually wondering earlier on my trip about how appropriate it is to feel and share nostalgia about “The Dukes of Hazzard.” My brother and I and our friends watched it as kids in the 1980s, before any of us understand what it meant that the car was called the “General Lee” and it had the Stars and Bars on its roof.

Centennial Park was the site of Black Lives Matter protests last year, and protestors targeted Confederate monuments at the state Tennessee State Capitol in August, but as I thought about it, I think the relative benignness of the Centennial Park statue is what made me the most uneasy.

Not that the statue is benign — it’s still a monument to Confederate soldiers in a public park where African-Americans were not allowed until the 1960s and the pool was closed in order to prevent it from being integrated.

However, because it’s not the primary attraction, and again, isn’t really near anything except the walking path (which means, depending on how you come into the park and where you go once you get there, you may not see it at all), I wonder if it’s just part of the landscape, like the trees.

If anyone reading this can make me aware of how I’m wrong, that the statue isn’t just another thing in the park, please do.

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Did you know that women could vote because of Tennessee? I didn’t.

On Aug. 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state (out of 48) to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. It passed by a single vote in the state House, cast by a 24-year-old state representative named Harry Burn who had previously been a no vote but reversed his stance after some very personal lobbying.

“I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow,” he explained, “and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.”

The women’s suffrage statue in Centennial Park honors Anne Dallas Dudley of Nashville, Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga, J Frankie Pierce of Nashville, Sue Shelton White of Jackson and Carrie Chapman Catt, the National Suffrage leader who came to Tennessee to direct the pro-suffrage forces from the Hermitage Hotel.

“When I was a child I grew up on a farm near here, and I would come to Nashville and I would go to the state capitol and wonder why there were no women,” said Alma Sanford, whose idea it was to build the memorial in Centennial Park. “After it was unveiled and they got all of the packing off of it, our great artist, Alan LeQuire, came up to it and looked at me and said, ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘It’s perfect,’ and I cried.”

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A replica of a famed site in Ancient Greece, and memorials honoring both soldiers who fought to break up the United States and those who fought to give women the right to vote — all in one park in Nashville.

History is vast.

2 thoughts on “Nashville travels: The arc of history in Centennial Park

  1. Pingback: Nashville travels: Thanks for the past four days – Bill's Writing Place

  2. Pingback: Celebrating pools, celebrating America – A Silly Place

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