Nashville Environmental Justice Initiative

The Nashville Environmental Justice Initiative (NEJI) works to educate community stakeholders on the tenets of environmental justice and collaborative problem solving that protects and empowers Nashville’s most marginalized communities from environmental hazards. Through a partnership between Urban Green Lab and Tennessee State University, the initiative is designed to grow a culture of systemic learning around environmental justice in the city by exploring the issues facing marginalized communities today, developing impactful educational solutions, and connecting thought leaders to better mobilize their collective impact so Nashville grows responsibly for its people, profit, and the planet.

Examples of Environmental Racism in Nashville

Black Bottom
Map of Nashville's Black Bottom Neighborhood, present-day 'SoBro' neighborhood. Photo is public domain.
Map of Nashville's Black Bottom Neighborhood, present-day 'SoBro' neighborhood. Photo is public domain.

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.

Further Reading:

North Nashville's Fight Over I-40
The Ritz Theater, located across from Fisk University, was open from 1937-1969 when the construction of I-40 forced it to close. Photo from Cinema Treasures.
The Ritz Theater, located across from Fisk University, was open from 1937-1969 when the construction of I-40 forced it to close. Photo from Cinema Treasures.

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.

Further Reading:

James A. Cayce Homes Air Quality Findings
Photo from WPLN
Photo from WPLN

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.

Further Learning:

Bordeaux Community
Photo from Nashville Scene
Photo from Nashville Scene

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.

Further Reading:

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