Visiting Fisk

Family Fest – Day 3

Today we went to Fisk and had an incredible day. I have a new appreciation for the history of the institution and all that it symbolizes. We took the kids there so they start to understand the importance and significance of having an education.

We got to campus at 10am and were treated to a tour by a student with an intriguing background – W.J. (we’ll call him), is a double major in history and religion and a minor in secondary education. He was an awesome tour guide – extremely knowledgeable and exactly the kind of tour guide we hoped we’d have. If I were to post about everything we learned today, I’d have a post five pages long!

Fisk was established in 1866 and was the first post-civil war education institution for blacks. We started in Cravath Hall, which used to be the original library. Built by masons, the building looks the same from all directions and has masonic images over the doorway.

W.J. then took us over to the Fisk Chapel where performances by the who’s who of black history have performed and lectured. The Chapel is a beautiful structure and we learned that when a royal patriarch in Ghana learned that Fisk did not have the money to finish construction, he literally took the roof off of his residence and sent it over to Fisk with his architects. Also, the Chapel is made from stone and mahogany wood which do not burn, so whenever there was a threat to the students on campus, they would go into the Chapel into rooms hidden among the roof of the chapel.

W.J. informed us that Miles Davis had once performed there, so of course I had to take a picture of Miles standing in front.

We then walked over to Jubilee Hall, the original building on campus and the one built with the funds raised by the Jubilee Singers. Along the way we passed by this painting on the ground done by Nikki Giovanni when she was a senior at Fisk, and now the tradition is that each year, the senior class repaints it.

Jubilee Hall is a great structure, built on what was the highest hill in Nashville and the original location where slaves were sold. Jubilee Hall was the first permanent structure in the country built exclusively for the purpose of educating blacks.

The first floor of Jubilee Hall is maintained in original condition for the most part b/c it is a National Historic Landmark. Inside, the original painting of the Jubilee Singers is housed in a meeting room. That meeting room also has beams in the room that were taken from an Austrian castle built in the 1300s. Amazing.

At this point, W.J. departed from us and we went off to lunch. We came back to the campus after lunch to visit a colleague of mine at the Fisk Library and we viewed the art in the Aaron Douglass gallery on the 3rd floor of the library. Also on the 3rd floor was a collection of sketches by Cyrus Baldridge, who walked across Africa with his wife in the 1930s and made sketches of those he interacted with.

There was so much more to our visit but these were some of the highlights. Pictures from yesterday’s visit to the TN State Museum are here, and pictures from Fisk are here.

Tonight, we got the boys watching the first half of Roots. Further education for them. Tomorrow we’ll finish. No other major plans than that and running some errands.