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Urban LowlandsA History of Neighborhoods, Poverty, and Planning$
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Steven T. Moga

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226710532

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226710679.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

Black Bottom

Black Bottom

Nashville, Tennessee

(p.55) 3 Black Bottom
Urban Lowlands

Steven T. Moga

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 3 discusses Black Bottom, which is located along the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of German and Irish immigrants, poor whites, and African Americans lived on either side of a creek known as Wilson’s Spring Branch. Neighborhood residents suffered and died in the 1873 cholera epidemic as a result of poor sanitation and contaminated water. During Reconstruction, white health officials, journalists, and elected officials used the toponym “black bottom” to racialize space, labeling the whole area and all its residents as black. By the 1890s, engineers had redirected the creek into a sewer and warehouses, lumberyards, churches, schools, large single-family houses, rooming houses, gambling dens, dance halls, and saloons covered the stream valley. Municipal debates raged over the proposed elimination of the neighborhood. Nashville voters ultimately rejected a proposed slum clearance and public park construction project. Housing demolition for infrastructure projects, zoning, and commercial and industrial redevelopment caused significant population decline after 1930. African American history is highlighted in this chapter, which charts the land use trajectory, environmental conditions, and social history of this urban lowland neighborhood.

Keywords:   African American, 1873 cholera epidemic, racialized space, Black Bottom, Nashville, reconstruction, toponym, slum clearance, public park, zoning

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