Placemaking Spotlight: Nashville's Jefferson Street | Scenic America
Placemaking Spotlight: Nashville’s Jefferson Street

Historic Community at a Crossroads is Profiled in Documentary Film

Once the northern boundary of Nashville, Jefferson Street boasts a rich history as a hotspot for African American commerce and culture. Once a haven for formerly enslaved people, it was home to three historically Black colleges and universities, a vibrant entertainment scene, and some of the oldest Black churches in the state. The community was forever altered when Interstate 40 sliced through it in the late 1950s, upending its economy and slicing up its neighborhoods. Thanks to the passion and leadership of some of its longtime residents, Jefferson Street is at a turning point, facing challenges and uncertainties as it looks to the future.

Students marching during the Freedom March on Jefferson Street, Nashville, Tennessee, March 23, 1963

To explore the fascinating history and contemporary challenges of this iconic street, Nashville Public Television released an hour-long documentary, Facing North: Jefferson Street, Nashville. Produced by LaTonya Turner, the documentary weaves together the stories and voices of its residents, including Lorenzo Washington, who founded the Jefferson Street Sound Museum to preserve and showcase the neighborhood’s musical history, as well as notable historians and community leaders.

Lorenzo Washington at the Jefferson Street Sound Museum (

The documentary, interactive map, and other supporting materials can be viewed here.