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Public’s help needed with African-American history...

Public’s help needed with African-American history at Bradley Academy

MTSU students are trying to preserve the history of African-American education in Rutherford County, and they need help from the public.

The Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center on South Academy Street in Murfreesboro, the first school for black students in Rutherford County, needs help preserving African-American history at the school. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Murfreesboro)

The Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center on South Academy Street in Murfreesboro, the first school for black students in Rutherford County, needs help preserving African-American history at the school. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Murfreesboro)

Graduate students in Dr. Brenden Martin’s “Essentials of Museum Management” class, in cooperation with the Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center and Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation, need citizens throughout the community to provide artifacts and identify people in photographs as they revamp the museums’ exhibit area.

Dr. Brenden Martin

Dr. Brenden Martin

The exhibit space was developed 16 years ago, but Martin said museum and municipal officials want to broaden the scope of the exhibit.

“As Bradley Academy moves into a new administrative structure, I think they are very interested in expanding their collections,” said Martin.

Student project director Lindsey Fisher, a doctoral candidate from New Castle, Pennsylvania, said the effort focuses on African-American education and history “as a way to do activism and preservation.”

A presentation method for the artifacts is still being discussed, but Martin and Fisher said plans include using some existing oral histories from MTSU’s Albert Gore Research Center and the Rutherford County archives to create short films for a multimedia experience.

Eleven students who are working on their master’s and doctoral degrees are contributing to the project.

“Each person is assigned a specific task,” said Fisher. “We have some people who are doing research, some people who are coordinating all of the oral histories, some people who are doing just the digital histories, and then we’re all sort of working together on the exhibit text to make sure it all makes sense.”

The 1924 11th-grade class at Bradley Academy poses in their scholarly finest for a group photo. Standing from left to right are Richinell King, Nevada Crenshaw, Calvin Johnson and Geneva Buford; seated from left to right are Fruzzie Burrus, George Francis, Lillian Murray and Marie Bright. (Photo courtesy of Ernestine Tucker)

The 1924 11th-grade class at Bradley Academy poses in their scholarly finest for a group photo. Standing from left to right are Richinell King, Nevada Crenshaw, Calvin Johnson and Geneva Buford; seated from left to right are Fruzzie Burrus, George Francis, Lillian Murray and Marie Bright. MTSU museum management students are seeking artifacts and photos like these and help identifying them to preserve more of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County’s history. c(Photo courtesy of Ernestine Tucker)

Martin said Bradley Academy, Holloway High School and other educational venues were “places of empowerment” to lift up the African-American community in the wake of slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow laws that hampered the citizens’ education.

“We are excited for the new additions and changes to highlight the accomplishments of more African-Americans in the community that have not been told or shown to the public,” said Katie Wilson of the Friends of Bradley Academy Museum.

Some existing aspects of the exhibit, such as the arch representing the academy entrance and murals painted by artist Steve Matthews, will remain part of the display.

This sign from the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities denotes the historic significance of Bradley Academy, opened in 1917 as Rutherford County's first school for African-American students.

This sign from the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities denotes the historic significance of Bradley Academy, opened in 1917 as Rutherford County’s first school for African-American students.

“We take pride in the historical value of this building and want to give everyone who visits a wonderful and educational experience,” said Vonchelle Stembridge, program coordinator of the Bradley Academy Museum & Cultural Center.

“The community is going to be able to view our museum in a new and innovative way.”

The project represents a major addition to the students’ professional portfolios as they prepare for careers in historical fields.

“The benefit of this for the students is that they get some real world, hands-on experience in museum exhibits, installation and collections management,” said Martin.

“I think it’s a really unique training opportunity for their future careers.”

Anyone who can help with information or artifacts can contact Martin at 615-898-2643 or brenden.martin@mtsu.edu or Fisher at lmf3z@mtmail.mtsu.edu.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)


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