For heritage tourism visitors and residents alike, there is a new booklet detailing almost 100 properties that demonstrate how the decade after the Civil War—what is called the Reconstruction era—changed Tennessee and Tennesseans. Tennessee’s Reconstruction Past: A Driving Tour highlights historic churches, schools, cemeteries and communities. Prepared by the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area (TCWNHA), a program of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, the guide encourages everyone to visit the sites across the state and explore our Reconstruction legacies.
The Reconstruction era is one of the most compelling periods in Tennessee history. As it unfolded, African Americans became legal citizens and African American men gained the right to vote. A new state constitution, still in effect today, was ratified in 1870. Nine new counties were created between 1870 and 1871. Across the state, new communities, new churches and new schools opened their doors, creating challenges and opportunities for all citizens.
“We cannot understand Tennessee today without understanding how the years after the Civil War charted new directions in Tennessee education, religion and politics as they also created a new definition of citizenship for all Tennesseans,” says Dr. Carroll Van West, Tennessee State Historian and Director of MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation. Van West recently visited Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center in Murfreesboro, one of the sites highlighted in the booklet, to present them with copies of the booklet. Bradley Academy’s historic roots in educating African American children in Murfreesboro extend back to the 19th century, and are one of the Reconstruction legacies the booklet describes.
Tennessee’s Reconstruction Past: A Driving Tour is available in both print and electronic editions. To obtain a print copy of the tour, visit The Heritage Center, located at 225 W. College St., Murfreesboro. You can also find a print copy at Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center, located at 415 S. Academy St., Murfreesboro.
Electronic versions will also be available from the website of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area (tncivilwar.org) or from the website of the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation (mtsuhistpres.org).
The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area is a partnership unit of the National Park Service and administered by the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University. Since its inception, the Heritage Area has worked with communities and organizations across the state to tell the powerful stories of the home front, the demands of fighting and occupation, the freedom of emancipation, and the enduring legacies of Reconstruction.