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BY ZACH MORTICE

Witness Walls is composed of two different types of concrete walls, one with soft, impressionistic imagery and the other with sharper image contrasts. Photo by Stacey Irvin.

Many cities where African Americans fought for equality in the 1950s and 1960s are associated with violence: Selma, Memphis, Birmingham. Nashville wasn’t such a place. Its civil rights story was nonviolent and “so successful we don’t know about it,” says the landscape architect Walter Hood, ASLA, who was asked to commemorate this history with a public art installation.

Nashville was a leader in civil rights. It desegregated its public schools relatively early, in 1957, and its activist community and local pastors offered the same suite of training and conditioning for student protestors that many southern cities did. After a historic protest, then-Mayor Ben West was forced to desegregate the city’s lunch counters.

The site of this protest is now home to a commemorative public art and landscape installation by Walter Hood: Witness Walls, for the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, completed in April. It’s the city’s first (more…)

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