March 4, 2021
Local Institutions Combine Forces to Honor Historic Black Churches
CHATTANOOGA METRO AREA,TN – RISE Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Department of History, and Leadership Chattanooga have partnered to uncover the rich history of local Black churches.
As a part of their ongoing partnership, RISE and the UTC Department of History are joining with Leadership Chattanooga for this exciting new look at the often overlooked history and influence of Black churches in Chattanooga. The current initiative, a combination of diligent research and vivid storytelling, focuses on First Baptist Church located on East 8th Street.
“Understanding the role of Black churches in our communities is crucial to understanding the Black experience more broadly. Our hope is that we tell the stories from the past while building community in the present.” — Woodson Carpenter, RISE Community Arts Strategist
“We must stay curious and continue to educate one another. It is only through this vigilant effort that we will truly be able to understand where we are as a community. Chattanooga has such a rich and diverse history of untold stories that are yet to be highlighted. We have to move beyond the surface.” — Danny Grzesik, UTC Director for Leadership Development Programs | Leadership Chattanooga
“It is impossible to understand Chattanooga without understanding the contributions of the black community. Working with First Baptist Church gives us a unique opportunity to promote black voices that are so crucial to Chattanooga’s past and present but are often left out of the story.” — Dr. Kelli B. Nelson, UTC Department of History Lecturer
Throughout the spring, the group will be interviewing church members, archiving photographs and documents, recording their process, and reporting to the community. Oral histories and documentation will illuminate the importance of the church in Chattanooga past and present. The project will be completed in May of 2021.
RISE (Responsive Initiatives for Social Empowerment), formerly known as Jazzanooga, which started as a one day Jazz festival in 2011 has quickly evolved into an independent minority led arts organization dedicated to using the arts to transcend cultural barriers and addressing the lack of arts and cultural programming in the Chattanooga area. For more information about RISE, visit risecha.org.
The Department of History promotes excellence in teaching, scholarship, and research. Its mission is to ensure that students engage critically with and understand historical events. The faculty and curriculum expose students to a broad range of historical periods and geographical areas, and introduce them to a wide variety of primary and secondary historical sources. For more information about the History Department, as well as UTC’s Africana Studies program, visit new.utc.edu/arts-and-sciences/history.
Leadership Chattanooga prepares promising local professionals for prominent business, cultural and political roles through a 10-month leadership development program. Presented by the Chattanooga Chamber Foundation, Leadership Chattanooga provides comprehensive leadership training through: Monthly meetings exploring various aspects of leadership and challenges facing our community; Experiential learning opportunities including a police ride along; Interaction with the community’s top leadership, including meeting with state leaders in Nashville; and Community service projects.