MURFREESBORO — A new brochure produced by MTSU will direct history lovers to the landmarks that have defined the African-American experience in Maury County, Tennessee.
“Communities and Legacies: Maury County’s African-American History” is the motorist’s guide to a driving tour of churches, cemeteries, meeting halls and other locations.
The pamphlet was a collaboration between MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation and the center’s Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area with key assistance from the African-American Heritage Society of Maury County.
Master’s degree and doctoral students under the direction of Carroll Van West, CHP director and Tennessee State Historian, did the research and the footwork necessary to ensure historical accuracy.
“The students … assisted with the field work, documenting the sites, taking photographs, trying to find out more history of these sites, but mostly in the county, not inside Columbia, and then writing text for some of the places that are in the tour,” said Leigh Anne Gardner, a CHP interpretive specialist.
From August 2014 through December 2014, the students collaborated with community members who provided them with personal anecdotes that put a human face on the past.
“I learned the value of cooperative partnership with the community, allowing them to dictate how the project would evolve,” said Torren Gatson, a doctoral candidate from Atlanta, Georgia, who participated in the project.
Jo Ann McClellan, a member of the African-American Heritage Society of Maury County, said the organization has had Tennessee Historical Commission markers placed at three locations on the tour. They are the former sites of College Hill School, the Maury County Colored Hospital and the A.J. Morton Funeral Home.
McClellan said, while the brochure may stimulate tourism in Maury County, interest in these sites was already apparent.
“We have had visitors from neighboring cities come specifically to visit the historical markers,” she said. “Visitors to this area for … class reunions and family reunions may decide to extend their stay and visit Grandma’s church or the cemetery where Grandpa is buried if it is featured in the brochure with directions.”
The pamphlet advises, “Unless the properties are open to the public, please respect property rights and view these places from the sidewalk or roadside” because many of the landmarks are still in use on a regular basis.
“Most of the churches continue to serve their congregations,” said Gardner. “Some of the schools, with integration, no longer serve as schools.”