Confederate hero’s name wiped from Metro school

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 9:20pm

Nashville now has a public school named after Robert Churchwell, the legendary Nashville Banner reporter who broke racial barriers in the segregated South to become the first African-American journalist to work at a major southern newspaper.

The school board unanimously voted Tuesday night to turn Wharton Elementary School into the Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School. Churchwell, a lifelong Nashvillian who was revered by many, died in 2009.

“It’s such a kind gesture,” said Mary Churchwell, Robert’s wife of 58 years. “He would love to know about this. He would be flattered because he loved to cover the school board, and covered it for over 20 years. I think this is just a wonderful thing to happen, to be honored in this way.”

The building itself, constructed in 1959 and situated on 18th Avenue in north Nashville, is getting the finishing touches of an $8 million renovation project. Students last year attended classes at the Brookemeade Elementary building in Bellevue. In August, they will move into the newly renovated north Nashville building, which will feature a new museum-magnet academic concept and a new school name.

The previous name, Wharton, referenced Arthur Dickson Wharton, a member of the Confederate navy who served during the Civil War with distinction. Later, the Nashville native made contributions to education as principal and professor at various institutions, as well as serving on the school board.

Robert Churchwell, who would become known as the “Jackie Robinson of Journalism,” began his tenure at the Nashville Banner in 1950. Hired by Nashville’s daily newspaper that vehemently opposed racial progress, Churchell was hired largely as a publicity stunt to attract readers.

During his first five years, Churchwell wasn’t even permitted to work in the paper’s newsroom. He worked from his house, making use of a typewriter he borrowed from a former teacher who lived in the neighborhood. Eventually, he became the Nashville Banner’s education reporter.

Churchwell began his reporting career the same year as John Seigenthaler, the famed Tennessean reporter who today serves as the newspaper’s chairman emeritus. The two would become great friends.

“What so many people in this city today miss when they hear his name is a full knowledge of a life that was totally committed to journalism and journalism as a form of education,” Seigenthaler said.

During his early years, Churchwell was relegated to basic reporting assignments — covering the black community’s churches, Boy Scout groups, etc. Stories he wrote and submitted that recounted the struggles of a racially divided Nashville were never printed.

“Bob Churchwell was a journalist who could compete with me on any story in this community or in this nation and indeed beat me,” Seigenthaler said. “He was so talented. Bob Churchwell was corralled and oppressed. His talent never was given the full opportunity to bloom because newspapers simply would not let him.”

Today, Churchwell’s five children have produced distinguished careers of their own in Nashville, including Andre Churchwell, who works as an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University.

“I can only say that the school would be something he would be smiling about now,” Andre Churchwell said. “Education was such an important central theme in his life that the Churchwell family will stay committed in a resolute way to ensure the success of that school.”

76 Comments on this post:

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/9/10 at 1:30

Amy, the confederate states were treasonist. totally different from Kuwait.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 1:33

Kosh, what about the thousands of Black Confederates, what is your opinion on that?

I don't recall whether you had any comment on Nashville area black slave owner Sherrod Bryant or that of the Barber of Natchez. Do we remain silent on non-whites who owned many slaves? Is that not a part of the truth that should be taught?

Would you allow someone like H K Edgerton to tell his viewpoint? Among his credentials are leadership in the NAACP if I recall correctly.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 1:34

Blanket, what was treasonous? Did you miss the quote from Mr Lincoln form 1848?

Who was tried for treason for this?

If secession was illegal, or should be then why was it not clarified in law after the end of the war?

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 1:36

Terrible analogy, Amy. We invaded Kuwait at the behest of the War Lobby (Defense, Israel & Energy); it was economicaly motivated; that was the real reason for the war.

The good reason for the war was somethoing about liberating the Kuwaiti people.

Sadly, the good reason was just a PR tool, to get the nation hopped-up for carnage. There was no folow-up on this. The Kuwaiti royal family was re-installed as a Divine Right monarchy...courtesy of the US Armed Forces and the US taxpayers. The Founders would freak out.

The Civil War was the result of the Great Secession. Kuwait was never part of our union of American states.. With all due respect, your analogy stinks.

BTW, the rebels fired on Fort Sumter, they used force first, the union reciprocated.

By: budlight on 6/9/10 at 1:36

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 8:55
Ya'll can celebrate the treason of the Confederacy if you wish. It's a free country. Go ahead: celebrate the treason committed just so some humans could enslave others.
Read the CSA Constitution: it was all about slavery--and treason.

Kosh, the war was over a long time ago, but the battles go on. There is no longer a CSA Constitution. We all need to get along.

Many died on both sides. We'll go back that way if we don't let the battles stop raging.

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 1:49

Amy, "thousands of black confederates" or was it thousands of slaves forced into fighting for their own enslavement? Are you actually implying that thousands of enslaved black men joined up willingly to preserve the white supremacist society that created the confederacy? What have you been smoking, girl? That is complete and utter rubbish, my dear. Again, you disappoint me, I thought that you had more on the ball than this, pathetic.

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 2:17

A tiny number of blacks owned other blacks, therefore slavery was not race based?

Notice, Amy, how some blacks owned other blacks; like thousands of whites did, but not a single black person ever owned a white slave in the South. Oh yes, African negro slavery was absolutely race-based; don't be a complete idiot, Amy.

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 2:21

Next thing you know, AmyLiorate will be defending the lynchings, the tar & featherings, Jim Crow and the KKK. She has been brain-washed...I suspect a Southern preacher has scrambled her senses on this issue.

The South was dead wrong on all counts - no amount of revisionism can ever change the facts, give it a rest.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 2:27

There were free blacks who fought as well as slaves who voluntarily were put into service as well as those put in position to fight for the CSA under duress.

There were many slaves who by movements with their owners and/or lines of battle, had great opportunity to leave slave holding areas behind. Some did, some did not.

All in all I see that many in the North did not like blacks at all. Lincoln had a few bought and shipped them out of the country. He stated that if he could keep the Union and have slaves then he'd do that, if he could keep the Union and not have slaves then he'd do that. Typical politician.

Where oh where did he ever say they were going to war to free slaves. Slaves that several Union generals themselves owned?

The Union mistreated the slaves and freed men alike. All the typical horrors of war occurred in occupied areas. A noble war fought by dishonorable men?

Again, Ft Sumter was a "Lusitania" rouse. The fort was being supplied with food and needs peacefully.
Only when military ships came on the scene, knowing it would escalate things, did the CSA fire on the fort.

NO ONE was killed there. So very little cause for further conflict other than a bruised ego. That should/could have been the end of it except for Lincolns pride!

I once read where the two leaders at Fort Sumter had been teacher/student in military academy. They knew what they had to do but each did his part in a way that would only cause physical damage and was their intent to not cause casualties.

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 2:39

Amy, you have been had.

Again, very disappointing that you would comtinue to spout the neo-confederate talking points. I can see that you are entrenched in your fantasy beliefs and nothing I can say or do can change that.

The lasting tregedy of the war is revealed by your remarks, you prefer ignorance and prejudice, as opposed to the truth and belong in the South, where many such idiots make their homes.

How many Confederate flags adorn your belongings is anyone's guess. Yee Haw!

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 2:48

I've never defended any of Jim Crow or terrorism on blacks. It is insulting that someone of Loner's intelligence would try to put that on me!

It would be hard to argue that the Klan wasn't a response to the carpet baggers and political oppression. Like the policies put to the Wiemar Republic, reconstruction begat a very bad child.

I do know that there were many thousands of KKK members way up in Illinois and Indiana, all over the North back in the hey-day of it's revival in the mid-1900s. I'm sure you all would just imply that those were southerners who had moved up North. But do tell about how the labor unions never seemed to have black members for so long? I'm sincerely open to finding out more!

Bless your hearts for thinking so highly of Mr Lincolns waging war to free a group of people that he didn't really like. I can't imagine how the loss of all that tariff money from the seceding states would have had any influence on politicians. Back in those days politicos were so different! ;)

Oil interests (economics) were the reason for Gulf War 1 & 2, but that wasn't the case in 1861?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/9/10 at 3:06

the North was already wealthy from the industrial revolution. or is that news to you?

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 3:17


Northern states had imported slaves and sold for over 100 years.
Much later after their profits were made the abolition movement got traction.

Harriet Tubman was a hero.

Succession was not illegal.
Some in the North wanted to secede in order to get around the Fugitive Slave law. That would have been good.

I have yet to see where Lincoln or any people in his administration or generals ever said they were fighting to free black people in the years of war ... up to the point where the proclaimation was made. It is hard to dispute that the proclamation was anything but an opportunity to get in England and France's favor.

Slavery was a horrible institution. It caused profit in the South but the North couldn't let that go without a fight.

Loner, I'll suggest a book written by a Northerner for you.
The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo. He is a professor at Loyola and gives many examples for his case complete with citations. I have read some counter points to his book but none which went in to dispute his sources.

I'm always open to finding out more, but today all I have seen is rhetoric and how quickly you will dismiss someone.

If we turn the table then would we see that no one is running around town trying to rename Rosa Park Blvd. I heard no Southerners complaining when that sign went up. Why must we tear down names of former Confederates? They could never have done anything in their later life to redeem themselves one bit?

By: pswindle on 6/9/10 at 4:55

The red state of Tennessee should go to Texas and see how they are rewriting history.

By: cambay1 on 6/9/10 at 6:52

Koch III- do you really think you were taught the unbiased truth at TSU, a college created for African-Americans? Please! Tell us another one.

By: cambay1 on 6/9/10 at 7:03

Loner, you can have your freedom of speech that MY white ancestors fought for you to have. But you need to watch the racist comments against another race.

"you belong in the South, where many such idiots make their homes.
How many Confederate flags adorn your belongings is anyone's guess. Yee Haw!"

That is hateful, racist, and small-minded of you! Or do you not practice what you preach?

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 7:06

Yep, Amy is a Confederate sympathizer looking for immoral equivalence in the North, as if that would mitigate the horrors of African negro slavery in the Old South. She claims that the KKK was a common item North of the Mason Dixon line and that labor unions are bigots, therefore the South is vindicated. What a load of complete garbage.

Amy is not nearly as smart as I first thought, she is a gullible and naive Southern more and no less. I admit it, she had me fooled for a short time, her ignorance and bigotry was quite well concealed.

In my home town, in Orleans County NY, we have a memorial in our largest cemetery dedicated to those "who fell in defence of the union", as the inscription in sandstone proclaims. The monument is a three-story tall stone tower that one can enter and climb to the look-out at the top. In the vestibule, nine marble tablets contain the names of 455 Orleans County men who died in the Civil War. Orleans is a small rural county in Western New York and remains so today. This huge loss of life devastated and scarred every Orleans County family, for generations.

My own great, great grandfather was gravely wounded at Cold Harbor and spent time, as a rebel prisoner, at Libby prison, where he developed scurvy and lost his teeth...all before the age of twenty. He limped his whole life.

When I read posts defending the Confederacy, I think of the sacrifices that my ancestors made and I realize it was all in vain....what a pity.

By: sidneyames on 6/9/10 at 7:31

Amy asked: "Loner, if it was OK in 1861 to go invade your neighbor to the south in order to free some slaves, then why in 1991 was it not just as admirable for the US to free the people of Kuwait who asked for help when being oppressed by Iraq?

I don't believe military action was necessary in either case. In the former slavery would have gone away just as every other Euro/American country did."

Amy your point of view is quite impressive.

And then we go on:
: Loner on 6/9/10 at 3:17
A tiny number of blacks owned other blacks, therefore slavery was not race based?

Notice, Amy, how some blacks owned other blacks; like thousands of whites did, but not a single black person ever owned a white slave in the South. Oh yes, African negro slavery was absolutely race-based; don't be a complete idiot, Amy.

Now Loner tell me if you can: Who sold the first black slave to a white man? Was it a white person who lived in Africa?

Blacks owned slaves in Africa and the middle east long before the U.S. was invented!

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 7:32

Cambay, is that short for Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam?

For your information, I'm a white guy too and our freedoms were secured by American soldiers of every race, not just your white ancestors, or mine. No, pointing out residual bigotry in the South does not make me a small-minded , hateful bigot; on the contrary, it is you who is exposing his hateful, bigoted and small-minded opinion - for public view.

When I read your comment, Cam, I could almost hear the opening chords of "Dueling Banjos" you squeal like a pig during sex? Just askin'.....LOL.

By: cambay1 on 6/9/10 at 8:29

When one can not prove their point they result in childish name calling, as you have proven. Don't even suspect to know me or what my screen name stands for. You are the only one on here slandering people. You have been reported to the monitors of this City Paper blog, so I wouldn't incriminate yourself anymore by another remark.

Thank you and thank you!

By: Loner on 6/10/10 at 6:51

So, Cambay1 is a whiny little tattle-tale who can dish it out but can't take it. I've been banned from the NCP before, for expressing my views, if they throw me out, so be it. Long live Freedom of Expression!

As for "proving my points", I did. Sadly, it went right over your head, Cam. Now go back under the porch.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/10/10 at 8:26

Loner has drooped to the level of ad hominem attack. I am disappointed.

Loner, I showed merely that the North was no perfect angel swooping down with altruism to free the black slave. Get off that high horse for a few minutes. There were black slave owners and free black soldiers on both sides of the battles. Honest history shows this. It also shows us counts of many slaveless and neutral people who were destroyed and terrorized by Union troops. The first casualty of war is truth!

If you can't take all of that into account then you don't have the whole picture.
There was in that war, like every other one I am aware of, a monetary issue at hand.
Never consider any political disharmony without following the money.

I have never in my life defended slavery.

My points have all been based on the freedom to self govern. That was denied to the slaves and that is a moral crime.

However, even if as you say, the South seceded purely for the purpose of keeping their chattel, I believe they still had that right to secede. Even if it was for the wrong reason. Though the whole slate was warped by the economic factors, that is my opinion. It has not always been, but that's where I am today.

So just as I support your right to freely say things that I do not agree with, I also support your right to freely choose your destination and if that involves a political split then I think it should be amicable. Even if you wanted to split New York in half and do whatever... there is a peaceful way of doing that.

On the same issue of self determination, I support Winston County Alabama. When their state seceded they chose not to side with AL and split from the state to have their own republic. I never understood why East Tennessee didn't do the same.

I checked around the house last night and report to you that there are NO CSA flags draped on my walls. And no misused white sheets either Mr. Ad Hominem!

I will confess that there is a flag of secession from the US indeed, it is this one:

I don't think I have anything else to say on this matter. You can research and/or refute my points or just continue bashing and characterizations.

Have a splendid day.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/10/10 at 8:32

cambay1 I support Loner's remaining on this board. I hope the editors will take note of this and consider it.

I know he is a thinker and speaks well on most occassions. I too have ancestors who were POWs. So I can understand where his underlaying sentiment comes from. I don't understand why he isn't open minded to considering any of the economic aspects and alternatives aside from bullets and cannons.

Those camps (on both sides) were the cause of more deaths than battle if I am to recall correctly.

By: Loner on 6/10/10 at 11:15

Amy. I like the Conch Republic idea, as long as it remains a joke and a tourist draw. I agree with their reasoning.

I agree that economics were involved in the Great Secession and its ugly aftrmath. For the South, economic survival depended on African negro slavery. That was the rub.

You cited examples of blacks owning blacks, but can you cite any examples of black persons owning white slaves in the Old South? Until you can find those examples of blacks owning whites, we must conclude that it was race-based slavery in the Old South. That was a white supremacist society.

The North was and remains guilty of some degree of bigotry. Northern white attitudes towards blacks are not shining lights on a hill. Still, we outlawed outright slavery early on, as did the English and other civilized nations. The South simply clung to their old ways and it was destroyed because of that inability to evolve with the times, IMO.

By: Loner on 6/10/10 at 11:25

As for the ad hominems, I do apologize to all concerned. I think that my points are valid and the invective was uncalled for. I stand behind my points. I regret the ad hominem attack and would delete certain portions of my posts if I could. As it is, I'll have to live with it.

As for the NCP, I appreciate this online service and wish to remain a registered user.

What more can I say?

By: AmyLiorate on 6/10/10 at 12:06

I understand your point about black only slaves. Some in the South clung to their ways, not for inability to evolve, but because they had a financial interest.

I think we can all move on now according to my idol in the field of economics:

Loner said "we outlawed outright slavery early on"
New Jersey may have had the best effort in 1804, freeing future children of slaves.
New York took almost a quarter century longer to end slavery.
Question: If you knew your gas powered car was going to be outlawed next year would you not be inclined to sell it to someone in the next state?

It was 1847, hardly more than a decade prior to the war that Pennsylvania ended slavery. So I say that slavery was going away before long. Too many slave owners were influential in trying to keep it around but I can't see how it would have remained for any significant time, even in the South.

I listed a book, you may never peek at it but I'd like to point out that Mr. Lincoln voted on some serious measures to keep blacks, even free blacks from being able to live in his state of Illinois:
'The 1848 Illinois Constitution required the General Assembly to "pass such laws as will effectively prohibit free persons of color from immigrating to and settling in this state…" Those prohibitions were passed as the "Black Laws" and went into force on February 12, 1853'

I can not list Lincoln as a real benevolent person in light of what I have learned in recent years. Apparently Ebony magazine felt this was also:

"We're dealing with a 135-year-old problem here," says Mr. Bennett, executive editor of Ebony magazine. "It's one of the most extraordinary efforts I know of to hide a whole man and a whole history, particularly when that man is one of the most celebrated men in American history."

A bit more support to my opinion:
"..most white northerners were not interested in fighting to free slaves or in giving rights to black people. "