Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Robert Cheatham

A Massive Whitewash

In a new book, historian Benjamin Houston corrects the misperception that racial integration in Nashville was a model of civility for the rest of the South

December 11, 2012 “The Nashville Way” is a phrase coined in the 1960s to describe the more civilized manner in which the white establishment of Nashville behaved when confronted with demands of equality from the black people of Nashville than did, say, the white establishment of Birmingham. But in his new book, The Nashville Way: Racial Etiquette and the Struggle for Social Justice in a Southern City, historian Benjamin Houston concludes that the slogan was nothing more than “a massive whitewash on multiple levels,” and he tells why in narratives from the perspective of both the white establishment and the leadership of the black community. On the whole, he writes, “it is the story of a society wrestling with yet willfully ignoring its racial reality. More fundamentally it is the story of how a racial status quo, after decades of upheaval, was both changed and yet preserved.”

Read more

The Uses for Freedom

Robert Cheatham remembers his friend Reynolds Price—and their one public conversation about sex

July 20, 2011 Acclaimed novelist Reynolds Price died on January 20, 2011. Six months later, Robert Cheatham, president of Humanities Tennessee, recalls his former college professor and friend of nearly fifty years and introduces Chapter 16’s publication of an interview he conducted with Price in the 1991 issue of Touchstone magazine. Owing in part to the controversy surrounding a National Endowment for the Arts grant to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, their conversation—titled “Censorship, Literature, & Public Education”—focused on the issues of sex and censorship and the role of the artist in contemporary culture.

Read more