Nashville Riot



Read the document below and answer the questions that follow.


The passage below is an excerpt from a 2011 interview with Kathleen Cleaver, a senior lecturer at Emory University School of Law. In the 1960s, Cleaver was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a leader of the Black Panther Party. In this excerpt, she explains what provoked a riot in Nashville in 1967. She had been in the city to attend a Black Power conference that she helped organize. 

Source text: 

“But in Nashville, in Nashville a huge riot erupted after I left to go to be in a wedding, uh, April sixth, I believe, was the wedding. And the conference had been like March 27th, 28th, or 29th, something like that. So, within a week of the conference, there was this huge uprising. And because the Tennessee legislature had been predicting violence - if Stokely Carmichael came, there was going to be violence - they got Michigan state helmets and training in riot control for their Nashville police, and they were so ready for this violence that they started the riot before [laughs] Stokely Carmichael got there. I think it was some kind of little, um, a fight, a fight or a conflict at a bar sparked it, and then it went on for days.”

Question 1: How might the excerpt be useful as evidence of what provoked the Nashville Riot?  

Question 2: What about this source might make it less useful as evidence of what provoked the Nashville Riot?  

About the Assessment

Like the Slave Quarters assessment, this item requires students to consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of a document as historical evidence. Students with a sophisticated understanding of how to source a document will be able to explain that the interview is useful because it is an expert account from the time. However, for Question 2, they will also observe that the interview was conducted decades after the riot and that Cleaver was not present during it. They will then explain how these facts limit its usefulness as evidence of how the riot began.