African-American museum gets new name, music-only focus

Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 3:25pm

Nashville’s much discussed — but still-not-built — African-American history museum slated for Jefferson Street at Rosa Parks Boulevard has undergone an overhaul to center solely on music.

With the change — now planned as a national museum — comes a new name, additional board leadership, updated structural renderings and a revamped website.  

As originally conceived, the museum was to have centered on African-American art, music and culture. However, project leaders have decided to strip away two of those three components after a market research study found 47 percent of respondents revealed a preference toward music alone.

“This celebrates everything from the Fisk Jubilee Singers to Little Richard to Ludacris,” said H. Beecher Hicks III, president of Gray Line Tennessee and chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “It really runs across more than 40 genres of music and covers the history of our country through music.” 

The project’s new name is the National Museum of African American Music (it had been the Museum of African American Music, Art and Culture). Those overseeing the project say the museum is still on pace for a late 2013 opening despite the museum’s $47.5 million price tag and the challenges of raising money.

“Museums do cost money,” Hicks said. “We will be responsible and won’t break ground until we’re close enough and we’re ready to do that. We’re at a pretty quiet phase of talking with investors around the city and around the country about the project. We feel we’re making some good progress.”

The commissioned study, according to project leaders, found the museum would generate an estimated 29,000 annual visitors from the Middle Tennessee area and 100,000 yearly visitors overall.

“Nashville is Music City,” Hicks said. “All of us here in town fully embrace that. And so as we over the last couple of years explored the project to determine what the scope and focus would be, in the end it really became apparent that while art and culture are obviously very important, they are fairly broad terms.

“The piece that kept emerging was music,” he said. “Really, what we’re talking about is a national museum that celebrates the contributions African-Americans have made to music.”

In terms of the museum’s “national” title, Hicks said project leaders have initiated conversations with the Washington D.C.-based Smithsonian Institution about the world’s largest museum complex becoming a partner.

“There’s nothing like this in the United States,” he said of the project’s scope. “There’s nothing like this in the world.”

Hicks described what he expects to be an interactive experience for visitors inside the facility’s 16,000 feet of exhibit space. In addition, the building will include an auditorium for live performances.

Hicks said NMAAM would utilize “cutting edge technology,” adding that the hope is to collaborate with other area museums.

As part of the revamped museum concept, leaders have launched a new website at

New board members are Gregg Morton, president of Tennessee AT&T; Waverly Crenshaw, partner at Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis LLP; Don Jackson, CEO of Central City Productions; and Bobby Jones, CEO of Bobby Jones Gospel/Visions Production Studio.

Mayor Karl Dean serves as one of two co-chairs of the museum’s community advisory council. 


10 Comments on this post:

By: Trumpet on 9/2/11 at 12:32

Joe/The Collection: "...If it Waddles like an Oprah...Quacks like an Oprah...Chances are it is..... What?..."

Mark my words!

But, it does surprise me that John Seigenthaler would go this far "out on a limb" with them, this time. "Long-live 'A Word On Words' John's part of my legacy too....."

MAAMAC Vs. NMAAM! I know this has become a cliche in America, but would someone please explain to me how Less actually equals More?

Plus, if I am to have a National Museum in Washington, why do I also need one in Nashville? Maybe it's to accomodate.....Who? Quack-quack!

By: govskeptic on 9/2/11 at 5:53

Why not just a true museum celebrating Nashville and cover all aspects of our
history. We now already have two museums devoted to music. Maybe this
museum could have a special wing for: Oprah, John Lewis, and of course,
John Seigenthaler/Robert Kennedy included!

By: fdanshep on 9/2/11 at 6:17

So, Mr. H Beecher Hicks of Gray Line Tennessee, a visitor will be able to celebrate the contributions of Ludacris! Are African Americans proud of what he brings to the table with lyrics using explicit language, sex, violence,drugs and other illegal activity? Mr. Hicks do you have his songs in your I-Pod? Have you listened to My Chick Bad, Sex room or Get Out the Way? In Get out the Way, the F-word or some derative thereof is spoken 14 times sprinkled in with the N-Word.

How about you, Mr. Bobby Jones, CEO of Bobby Jones Gospel? Are you a big fan?

Will I be able to go over to his exhibit and punch a button to hear (along with orthers) some of his "music"? Your museum could be a wonderfull venue; then again, it may be a total failure because it will turn off a sizable segment of society such as myself.

Perhaps you can welcome Pac Man Jones to your board of trustees. Hopefully, Mr Dean will be more than an adviser in name only.

By: Nitzche on 9/2/11 at 7:37

this thing has -0- chance of being successful! might as well name it tenn care museum, will be another government program, that will fail

By: Trumpetman on 9/2/11 at 11:55

Why do white people always feel so threatened when other races are doing something good and it may not be necessiarly benifiting them???

By: yogiman on 9/4/11 at 7:32

Why does the majority of Americans of the Negro race call themselves African-American? Aren't they simply Americans? Does every black American in the US have ancestors from the African continent? Have they all done a family-tree research?

If they are entitled to be called African-Americans, are the Americans from Africa of the Caucasian race also entitled to call themselves African-Americans?

Why aren't they just plain old Americans?

The United States of America is the biggest nation of the world, with the ancestors of the vast majority of its people from all over the world. Why aren't they all just... Americans?

And yes, ancestral pride should prevail.

By: Loner on 9/4/11 at 4:17

I think that this is a great idea....there was a time when black musicians working white clubs had to enter the building through the back door. I hope that the Jim Crow years are not glossed over at this museum...let the truth be known, so that it is never repeated.

By looking back, we can all move forward.

If some stiff-necked white supremacists are miffed, or in a tiff over this, so be it...those folks have had their day.

By: yogiman on 9/5/11 at 8:10


I believe the white "supremacists" are few and far between today. There is now more racism on the black side of that old fence.

By: Ingleweird on 9/5/11 at 2:51

Why are you so concerned with how OTHER PEOPLE decide to label themselves? You're a Christian, here's a verse for you:

Matthew 7:3 (NIV)
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

You are a supremacist-in-denial. Any time you comment on news containing race-related info, you automatically chime in with your childish small-minded quips about how whites would do it better. Your "Us vs. Them" mentality does nothing to advance race relations in this country; if anything you are perpetuating racism. Considering that only 12.6 % of Americans identify as "black or African-American," I find it mathematically improbable to support your claim that black supremacists outnumber white supremacists, even if 100% of all blacks/Afro-Americans were black supremacists. To me, you are the personification of an old Frank Zappa line:

"I'm not black, but there's a whole lots of times I wish I could say I'm not white."

By: yogiman on 9/5/11 at 7:43

weirdo, aka: ingleweird

Its a shame you don't have the brain you seem to think you have. You call me a racist? How can you make such a a stupid statement when you don't know me? Have you ever seen me? Do even know what race I am?

Sorry, I forgot; you know you know, don't you?

Didn't think so, yet you can egotistically go full blast and make such a stupid comment. Maybe you should take that brain out and play with it like the other parts of your body.