On August 19, 2020, the Nashville Sustainability Roundtable held a special edition virtual event on the subject of Environmental Justice. Guest speakers Chandra Taylor and Amanda Garcia from the Southern Environmental Law Center shared their stories of litigating issues of environmental racism in North Carolina and Tennessee, respectively.
If you are interested in teaching your organization or community about environmental justice and the history of environmental racism in Nashville, please contact email@example.com to schedule a virtual webinar now!
Below is a compilation of resources for further learning on the subject of environmental justice, especially as it relates to Nashville.
Nashville Environmental Justice Initiative
Urban Green Lab and Tennessee State University (TSU) have partnered to create the Nashville Environmental Justice Initiative (NEJI). Beginning in the Fall of 2020, TSU will lead a study to map the need for environmental justice education in the city of Nashville.
Urban Green Lab and TSU hope the new initiative will shed light on Nashville’s social determinants of health, the legal frameworks of development, and green business planning, and how a culture of learning about environmental justice can reinforce the city’s long-term social equity goals found in NashvilleNext, the Solid Waste Master Plan, and Mayor Cooper’s future Climate Action Plan. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Examples of Environmental Racism in Nashville
Nashville’s Black Bottom neighborhood existed in what is now known as “SoBro” from 1832 up until the Great Depression era. Black Bottom was a culturally rich area and in 1880, Nashville’s population was 40% Black.
- Black Bottom, Tennessee Encyclopedia
- A City Swept Clean, Nashville Scene
- Black Bottom (Nashville) (1832-1950), Black Past
- Black Bottom: The Boogeyman of Nashville, Vanderbilt University
North Nashville’s Fight Over I-40
Though I-40 was originally slated to be built near Vanderbilt University, plans quickly changed to cut right through a cultural epicenter for Nashville’s Black community. In the late 1960s, A citizen-led group fought against the location of this construction but ultimately lost after a battle at the US Supreme Court. Within one year of construction, homes in the area had lost 30% of their value and never recovered. Dozens of businesses were closed forever.
- An African American Community’s Fight Over Interstate 40, Tennessee 4 Me
- History Repeats Itself in North Nashville, Nashville Scene
James A. Cayce Homes Air Quality Findings
The James A. Cayce Homes public housing community has among the highest rates of asthma is all of Davidson County. Indoor and outdoor pollutants contribute to this human health crisis including highway emissions from I-24 with no protection and prevalent mold in the homes.
- HIDE presents air quality findings at MVA 15-Year Mini-Grant dissemination workshop, Vanderbilt University
- The Promise Podcast Series, WPLN
The Bordeaux community has been a victim of environmental racism repeatedly over the past several decades. Most notably, the Bordeaux Landfill was built inside of one of Nashville’s most prominent Black communities. The community continues to battle to create a safe and healthy environment in their neighborhood.
- Environmental Racism?, Nashville Scene
- Bordeaux to receive another waste facility?, Pride Publishing Group
- Bordeaux Residents Continue To Fight Food Waste Facility, News Channel 5 Nashville
- Residents Fight To Stop Liquid Waste Facility From Moving To Their Neighborhood, News Channel 5
- A Tennessee community wonders whose side TDEC is on: theirs, or the local landfill’s, Nashville Scene
Dickson County Families Poisoned by Landfill Leachate
Sheila Holt-Orsted dedicated more than a decade of her life fighting for justice for her community, 25 miles west of Nashville. Several of her family members and others in the community were suffering from serious health problems including cancer, which caused her to question if the landfill 57 feet away from the Holt family property was a contributing factor. The property’s well water was tested to have 148 times higher than the safe amount of TCE, the 15th most toxic chemical in the world. Additionally, it was found that white residents in her community were warned of the toxicity of the well water 8 years prior and nothing was said to the Black residents. This situation became known as the “Poster Child” for environmental racism.
- “Poster Child” for Environmental Racism Finds Justice in Dickson, TN, NRDC
- Video: The Holts Discuss Dickson, TN Litigation, NRDC
- State of Tennessee is No Titan When Protecting Black Family From Toxic Racism, Dr. Robert Bullard
This section will be periodically updated.
- Environmental Justice Reading List, Urban Green Lab
- Southern Environmental Law Center
- Dr. Robert Bullard: Father of Environmental Justice
- The Environmental Justice Movement, NRDC
- Unequal Impact: The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change, Yale University