Embracing Citizenship

Company 1, 20th Regiment
Company 1, 20th Regiment, Third W.A.C. Training Center, Fort Oglethorpe, GA, 1945. Photography by Cline Studio. Chattanooga History Center. Full Record.

With the changes promised by Emancipation and Tennessee’s 1870 Constitution, African Americans stepped forward to do their duty and claim their rights as citizens. Whether enlisting for military service, running for state and local office, advocating for voting rights and public education, or protesting against “Jim Crow” laws, they moved confidently but warily into the newly accessible public sphere.

Scholarly Essay

Public Education in Tennessee by Mary S. Hoffschwelle

Biographical Essay:

Sampson Wesley Keeble (1833-1887) by Linda T. Wynn

Lesson Plan:

African Americans in Military Service

Civic Engagement

With Emancipation and the ability to participate in a democratic society, African Americans put themselves forward for public service in a wide range of local and state offices in the late nineteenth century before the imposition of “Jim Crow” laws limited their ability to hold public positions by the late 1880s and early 1890s. ...More

Emancipation Day Ad from Nashville Globe Group of people seated in the cafeteria of Booker T. Washington High School Poster for 10th Anniversary of the Highlander Folk School Myles Horton and Eleanor Roosevelt James C. Napier Sampson Keeble William Henry Hastie, nominated by the President for Federal Judge Ticket to Roscoe Conklin Simmons speech Tennessee General Assembly, composite photograph of the 42nd legislature Tennessee General Assembly, composite photograph of the 45th legislature Tennessee General Assembly, composite photograph of the 44th legislature Sara Johnson Church, Annette Elaine Church, and, (seated), Mary Church Terrell in mourning following the death of Robert Reed Church, Sr. S.A. McElwee

Military Service

Despite being denied full citizenship in the Jim Crow South, African Americans have voluntarily enlisted in the military and defended the United States in conflicts from the Civil War to the present. ...More.

African American Baseball Team at Fort Oglethorpe Company 1, 20 Regiment, Third W.A.C. Training Center, Fort Oglethorpe, GA Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant wood shop workers Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant, Panorma African American troops drilling Soldier with children in yard in North Memphis Soldier saluting in front of Taylor screen Dr. C.S. Boyd and soldiers Nancy Harvey Searcy Woman with war bonds and TNTGroup of African American men in front of the County Clerk's officeGroup of people on the courthouse squareWhite baseball teamBlair T. HuntGroup of African Americans being transferred to jail in NashvilleGroup of jailed agitatorsVolunteer Army Ammunition Plant Workers Painting Road Lines Sgt. Cornelius Sykes, 14th U. S. C. T., gravestoneDas Zeugniss eines Flüchtlings von Ost-Tennessee

Public Education

Following the Civil War, the Tennessee General Assembly passed an act for the reorganization, supervision, and maintenance of public schools. ...More.

Letter from Rockefeller Fund Austin High School group Carl Cowan John W. Manning, Principal, Austin High School York Institute Library at Booker T. Washington High School Wood Shop Class at Booker T. Washington High School Knoxville College chemistry building James A. Henry and graduating classLincoln Rosenwald School Main Street School, Chattanooga Free Hill School Dunbar School,Loudon County Doe Creek School, Henderson County Fort Cooper School, Hickman County Austin High School Women's Basketball TeamKnoxville College Agriculture Building Sitka School in Gibson County Flagg Grove School Trenton Rosenswald SchoolCommunity School PlanPikeville School for Colored Boys Baseball Team, Tennessee State Technical & Agricultural School for Colored Boys, Pikeville

Voting Rights

The post-Civil War passage of the fifteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted suffrage to African American males, meant extending the franchise to Tennessee’s black citizens in the 1870 Constitution but left intact the poll tax, which was designated to pay for public education. ...More.

Letter from Mrs. T.S. Brown to Mayor CrumpPoll tax petitionVoting District 29-2, MemphisRoosevelt Election HeadquartersFacts every negro should know about RooseveltNashville Women’s Equal Suffrage Banner at State FairgroundsMary Church TerrellSue Shelton WhiteThe Progress of Colored WomenWoman's Case in Equity