Original Fort Negley Builders Honored In Tweets

Posted at 4:01 PM, Aug 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-25 21:26:11-04

In honor of Fort Negley's 155th year in existence, staff members honored the people who built it and other structures by sending each name out individually on social media.

Hundreds of African American men and women likely died at Fort Negley Park in Nashville. A total of 2,771 people were forced to work under the hot sun to make fort, and four other structures.

Some of the people were slaves sent by their masters to help build the fort, others were taken from towns, churches or bars by Union soldiers and forced to work.

According to Dr. Lea Williams, it's likely they laid the frame work for what Nashville has since become.

"I was very excited because those tweets compel us to reimagine the contraband camp. Now, we're not just talking about faceless, nameless individuals. Now we have names."

Contraband refers to fugitive slaves that Union soldiers would not return to their former owners.

"When you read these names aloud you speak life into them again," said Dr. Williams. "It's probably one of the last times in the past 150 years or some odd years that someone has said these names out loud."

They started sending the tweets on Aug. 13 and will finish on Dec. 7.



Williams said it's nice they're focusing on the people who built the fort, rather than leaders of that era.



Many of the names posted so far are of men who did work on the fort. However, Williams said there were many women and children who were forced into labor there. Despite the fort's origin, it eventually came to mean freedom for fugitive slaves both traveling north and from slave owners nearby in Tennessee.