New civil rights showcase unveiled at Woolworth Theater | Pith in the wind

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Next time you walk up Rep. John Lewis Way North, take a minute to look in the new window at 221. On Monday, the owners of the new Woolworth Theater unveiled a miniature museum exhibit in the building’s southernmost window. It includes several stools that once stood at the historic lunch counter, a trench coat similar to the iconic one that civil rights icon John Lewis once wore, as well as a backpack like he used to wear, copies of sound March trilogy of books, art from his graphic novel, and a screen displaying information screens about the civil rights struggle.

The new storefront is the first in what the owners of Woolworth say are ongoing efforts to educate the public about the sit-ins that took place there in the 1960s, and also to preserve the historic building. The future of the Woolworth Building has been on the minds of many Nashvillians. It was named to Historic Nashville Inc.’s 2021 Nashville Nine List, the annual advocacy for spaces that should be preserved.

Sixty-two years ago, a group of college students staged sit-ins at Nashville food outlets, seeking to integrate the city’s downtown spaces. Their methods were non-violent, even if the counter-protests they endured were not. This is the first location where Rep. Lewis was arrested and sparked similar sit-ins across the country.

In February 2018, Tom Morales of TomKats Hospitality opened Woolworth on 5, a restaurant inside the historic building. The space had been closed for years, but some original details, such as the original terrazzo floors, remained. The restaurant recreated the lunch counter and offered sit-in programming and outreach, but closed during the pandemic.

Up next for the building is the new 400-seat theater, which will host long-running productions planned to be different from what’s available downtown. More details will be announced soon, but the owning team wanted to unveil the window first. In the process, they emphasize their intention to work with the Tennessee State Museum, the Nashville Public Library (which operates the Civil Rights Information Room on the second floor), and others to tell and preserve the site’s civil rights history. . One of Lewis’s nephews and one of his cousins ​​were on hand for the unveiling, providing detailed information such as the typical contents of Lewis’s backpack (an apple, an orange and a toothbrush). teeth).







2022 Woolworth Theater Window Unveiling

Left to right: Keval Sheth, CEO, Woolworth Theatre; Garry Lowe, vice president of the John R. Lewis Legacy Institute and cousin of Rep. John Lewis; Chuck Wicks, owner and creator of the Woolworth Theatre; Jerrick Lewis, nephew of Representative John Lewis; Joe Bravo, Vice President of Operations, Woolworth Theater




“When we started this project, we never intended to deal with a historic building,” says Woolworth Theater CEO Keval Sheth. “However, once we found the Woolworth, we were delighted to be in such a special space. Our team wanted to make sure we pay homage to history by using this main street side window to show the importance building for years to come.

The Woolworth Building is one of many sites in the state where the civil rights struggle took place. The state tourism body is working to make more of these places available to visitors and better explain their importance.

“What happened in Tennessee changed the world,” Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development and secretary/treasurer of the US Civil Rights Trail Marketing Alliance, said in a statement earlier this year. Ezell noted that there are now 14 stops in Tennessee on the US Civil Rights Trail. “Our state’s history and heritage highlights the triumphant and impactful stories of these destinations.”

Sheth says the team plans to contact other Woolworth sites to find period artifacts that could be used in future exhibits and to create more permanent exhibits with the nearby Tennessee State Museum.


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