By Betsy Thorpe
Dozens of travelers leave Interstate 40 at Exit 196 everyday, some to visit friends and family, others for fuel, refreshment or lodging. They all have a story to tell and we are here to share a tale or two that we heard at Exit 196.
It recently came to our attention that the actions taken by Nashville students during the 1960 Sit-in Movement were covered in part by Douglas Underwood, news photographer for Nashville’s CBS affiliate, WLAC TV. Working from the basement of the L&N building in downtown Nashville Mr. Underwood had easy access to the lunch counter demonstrations and was a witness to many of the historic Civil Rights events that occurred in the city that year— from February through May.
Nashville was a principal training ground for some of the nation’s most influential leaders in the civil rights movement, many of whom were schooled in the techniques of nonviolent protest. Along with the Nashville community, a group of young Nashville college students organized the Nashville sit-ins, city marches, and an effective downtown store boycott that led to the desegregation of public accommodations in the city. The Nashville protests came to serve as models for later protests throughout the South, and its leaders went on to make pivotal contributions to the success of the civil rights movement, including the Freedom Rides of 1961, the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Student Organizing Committee, historic protests in Selma, Alabama, and the 1963 March on Washington.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Nashville Sit-in Movement, a special exhibit titled “Visions & Voices: The Civil Rights Movement in Nashville & Tennessee” will be on display in the Courtyard Gallery of the downtown branch of the Nashville Public Library through May 22.]
In 1963 the Douglas Underwood family moved to a farm located near what is now Exit 196. He later founded the Westview News a family owned weekly newspaper that he operated until his untimely death in 1995. The memory of Douglas Underwood remains strong at Exit 196 and we are very proud that he chose to call our community home. We look forward to hearing more about the events he witnessed and documented throughout his life as an esteemed local journalist.