Monday, March 28, 2016

Recommended Women's History Month Reading from the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

March is Women’s History Month, a commemoration which began as International Working Women’s Day in 1911. It was expanded to Women’s History Week in 1980 via presidential proclamation and then to Women’s History Month in 1987 by a joint resolution of Congress.

Women's History Month recognizes the contributions of women in many economic, cultural and social roles. Women have been productive members of the labor force, active in charitable philanthropic and cultural institutions and leaders in the drives for major social changes.

Some books recognizing the roles of women that are available from the Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (TLBPH) include:

Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, contains biographical sketches of 20 powerful women. Some are familiar names like Cleopatra and Eleanor Roosevelt. Others are less well-known individuals such as Rigoberta Menchu, who fought for the rights of native people in Guatemala; Nzingha, the warrior queen of Matamba; and Angola, who negotiated with the Portuguese in the 1500s to keep peace and power for the Mbundu. Written for grades 4 through 8, this book is available in both audio and braille formats.

Bad Girls of the Bible, and What We Can Learn From Them, by Liz Curtis Higgs, is a humorous fictional retelling of the stories of 10 Biblical women, including Eve, Delilah, Jezebel, and the woman at the well. It is available in audio and large print formats.

And no library collection would be complete without Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life, which TLBPH has available in audio, braille, and large print formats. TLBPH also has a newer book, Helen Keller in Love by Rosie Sultan, a fictionalized account of the love affair between Helen and her private secretary, Peter Fagan. This title is available from TLBPH in braille.

For more information on TLBPH, go to:

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Famous Visitors to the Tennessee Legislature

For decades, the Tennessee General Assembly has invited guests to speak during legislative sessions. Some are welcomed as honored guests, receiving awards or special recognition. Others are invited to speak on matters of policy brought before legislators. These guests come from many different backgrounds, representing fields as diverse as politics, entertainment, athletics and publishing. Some of them are cultural icons who have influenced Tennessee history and even brought national attention to the state.

President Lyndon B. Johnson addressing the legislative body in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
March 15, 1967.
Photographs: Lyndon B. Johnson Visit to Nashville Collection.

State and federal political leaders have visited the Tennessee General Assembly for a number of reasons - among them, campaigning for office, supporting legislation, and pushing for reforms. John F. Kennedy was in his second term in the United States Senate when he visited in 1959. He made a speech describing the country's movement into an age of conscience and national survival. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson visited to discuss the United States policy in Vietnam. Civil rights leader Whitney M. Young also paid legislators a visit in 1971. Young strove to end employment discrimination and was a key figure in making the National Urban League a full partner in the civil rights movement.

John F. Kennedy, then a U.S. Senator, spoke before the Tennessee Legislature on February 25, 1959. His speech regarding entering an age in need of conscience and national survival was indicative of his forward-looking policies.

Entertainers have made frequent appearances before the General Assembly, sometimes to perform or speak on behalf of organizations they support, and sometimes as honorees. In 1961, Elvis Presley, the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” was presented a certificate of friendship by Governor Buford Ellington, as well as Senate Joint Resolution 52, which recognized Elvis for his character and his career accomplishments.

Also in 1971, the Carter family of country music performers stopped by the legislature to advocate for Walden House, a special care center for autistic children in Nashville. Anita Carter’s son was a day student there. While at the legislature, Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter sisters (minus June) performed several songs.

On April 15, 1971, the Carter Family (Mother Maybelle, Helen, and Anita Carter, with Bobby Harden standing in for June Carter Cash) visited the Tennessee Legislature to advocate for Walden house, a special care center for autistic children in Nashville. Anita Carter’s son was a day student there. While at the legislature, the Carter Family performed several songs, including an autoharp solo by Mother Maybelle and “Wildwood Flower.”

Several athletes have also made appearances in the legislature over the years. Legislators honored University of Tennessee (UT) Lady Vols Basketball Coach Pat Summitt in 1987 after her first national championship. Summitt now holds the record for the most all-time wins for a coach in NCAA basketball history, men's or women's, with eight national championships and 1,098 career wins.

More recently, UT football legend John T. Majors was honored by the General Assembly in 2009 under House Joint Resolution 186 for outstanding service to the state. Majors served as head football coach at UT from 1977 to 1992 with an overall record of 116 wins and 62 losses.

Be sure to check out our online exhibit on John T. Majors for more information and pictures.

Tennessee is also lucky to claim many authors and writers who have made a social or cultural impact. One of the most notable to visit the Tennessee Legislature is Alex Haley, author of the 1976 book, Roots. Haley lived in Henning until he was five years old. In his speech to the legislature, he noted how some of his ideas about family tradition were shaped while watching his grandmother and her sisters sit in rocking chairs on the front porch swapping old stories. Roots had major influence on awareness in the United States of African-American history and inspired a lot of interest in genealogy. Haley is also noted for conducting the longest interview Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. ever granted to any publication and for writing The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Alex Haley, author of Roots and the Autobiography of Malcom X, spoke at the Tennessee Legislature on May 9, 1985. A native of the West Tennessee town of Henning, Haley explained how some of his ideas about family tradition were shaped while watching his grandmother and her sisters sit in rocking chairs on the front porch, swapping old stories. In his speech to the legislature, Haley noted that we are the reflection of the better days longed for by our ancestors.

These are just a handful of famous and inspiring Tennesseans who have visited our legislature. You can find more information and discover other famous visitors through our legislative history program. The Tennessee State Library & Archives is responsible for recording all sessions, committees and subcommittees of the House and Senate, dating back to 1955.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Friday, March 18, 2016

'Tennessee County' - Another of the State's Lost Counties

A previous post discussed the organization and dissolution of Bell County, Tennessee. That post alluded to the existence of other “lost counties" in the state. Tennessee County is another example of the shifting county borders that once existed, but are now lost to history.

Tennessee County once made up a portion of the Mero District of North Carolina. After North Carolina ceded this land to the United States on April 2, 1790, it became known as the Territory South of the River Ohio, or Southwest Territory, until it was admitted into the union in 1796 as Tennessee, the nation’s 16th state.

This 1796 map of Tennessee shows Tennessee County in the Mero District of Middle Tennessee.

Formed by the state of North Carolina in 1788, Tennessee County was originally part of a much larger Davidson County. Tennessee County was carved out so that residents of the areas north and west of Nashville would have a county seat closer to home.

A published copy of The State Records of North Carolina: Laws, 1777-1788 showing the split of Davidson County to form Tennessee County.

Interestingly, citizens in Tennessee and Davidson counties apparently were the only ones who voted against Tennessee's statehood in the 1795 census. According to Thomas Hardeman, a representative from Davidson County: “A change in the form of government would burden the people with additional taxes.” (Statehood results from Sumner County weren't reported.)

This shows the census schedule from 1795, reporting the number of individuals residing in each county as well as their vote for Tennessee statehood. From the Territorial Papers of the United States: Volume IV.

Once Tennessee became a state in 1796, legislators quickly divided Tennessee County to form Montgomery and Robertson counties, once again due to the size of the county and travel distances to the county seat. Thus, Tennessee County existed no more. Today, the area once covered by Tennessee County’s borders now comprises present-day Dickson, Montgomery, and Robertson counties, as well as parts of Cheatham, Houston, Humphreys, and Stewart counties.

This 1796 act of the Tennessee General Assembly divided Tennessee County into two new counties: Montgomery and Robertson.

Understanding the formation of the counties in Tennessee is fundamental to understanding its history. There is no better place to do so than at the Tennessee State Library & Archives. Visit "Maps at the Tennessee State Library and Archives" online at to learn more.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Monday, March 14, 2016

Remarkable Women of Tennessee

We all know Tennessee is a great state, so it might not come as a surprise that Tennessee has produced some remarkable women over the years. In honor of National Women’s Month, we celebrate these Tennessee natives. From nurses to authors to activists to artists, these women faced hardships, segregation and discrimination, yet they overcame each obstacle and stuck by their beliefs and their ethics.

Mary Church Terrell. Library Photograph Collection.

Mary Church Terrell of Memphis became one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree and was an activist for civil rights and suffrage.

Wilma Rudolph of Clarksville was known as the fastest woman in the world and competed in two Olympic Games. Prior to the 1960 Olympic Games, where Rudolph won three gold medals, her coach Ed Temple described her as a good but not great athlete.

"Wilma really hit her peak in 1960," Temple said in an interview for the Tri-Star Chronicles, the Library & Archives' online gallery of prominent Tennesseans. "Up until that time, I had three or four girls on the team who were better than her." (Read more about what Temple had to say at:

Mary Murfree. Library Photograph Collection.

Mary Noailles Murfree of Murfreesboro was a fiction writer of Appalachian literature during a time when it was not considered socially acceptable for women to be writers.

Rhea Seddon. Tri-Star Chronicles. Image courtesy of Rhea Seddon, from her book, "Go for Orbit."

And Rhea Seddon, also of Murfreesboro, was one of the first of six women to enter NASA’s astronaut program. She was inducted in the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2015. Rhea Seddon was one of several prominent Tennesseans we profiled in the Library & Archives Tri-Star Chronicles project.

One common theme that all of these women can teach us is that with strength, determination and the desire to reach beyond boundaries, you can accomplish great things. Here at the Library & Archives, we invite you to come and learn more about these women, as well as the hundreds of others we feature in our collections. Come be inspired while we celebrate our native female heroes!

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Free Workshop Series: Finding World War I Ancestors

The United States waited almost three years before joining the Allied Forces in World War I, but then committed to the war effort in a major way. According to the National Archives, about 2 million Americans served overseas during the conflict, which represented more than one quarter of the country's male population from the ages of 18 to 31.

That means many of us have ancestors who fought during World War I. An upcoming workshop at the Tennessee State Library & Archives is geared toward helping people learn more about those long-ago relatives.

Brigadier General Edward L. King and officers, France, November 11, 1918
Luke Lea Papers

Gordon Belt, the Library & Archives' director of public services, will lead the workshop from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. on April 2. He will use a case study from his own family history to retrace the march of Tennesseans to the war's front lines.

The workshop will be held in the Library & Archives auditorium, which is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville.

Although the event is free and open to the public, reservations are required due to limited seating in the auditorium. To register for the workshop, please visit:

Free parking is available around the Library & Archives building.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Braille Resources at the Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped

"Make Every Single Thing Accessible"

At this year’s Grammy ceremony, singer Stevie Wonder, who is blind, teased the members of the Pentatonix a cappella group because they couldn't read the announcement about the song of the year winner, written in braille. He followed up his joke with a serious message: “We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.” That remark received enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Tennessee's Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has many braille books, including children's books, and Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.

That moment at the awards show highlighted Louis Braille’s inspiration for the tactile method of reading and writing that many blind people find useful today. Braille developed his alphabet from a system of writing in code that had been used by Napoleon’s army to communicate silently and without light at night, to avoid alerting enemies.

Reading braille is the most comparble way for a blind person to comprehend the “printed” words of books, magazines and other information items. Libraries for the blind and physically handicapped all over the country are familiar with the slogan: “There’s More Than One Way to Read a Book.” It's an expression promoting the use of braille and audio materials. Reading braille, students learn to spell words from studying their context. It is also the way students learn the proper use of punctuation. The ability to read braille greatly increases the opportunities for blind people to get jobs and to be successful contributors to society.

Braille readers can read as fast or faster than their sighted peers if they are immersed in the braille code on a daily basis. The ability to read braille must be practiced, however, in order to maintain the skills and speed. In order to make it possible for braille readers to practice their skills and keep up with current literature and information, the Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (TLBPH) loans braille books and magazines to any registered patron who would like to read them. More than 20,000 titles are available in braille from TLBPH, as well as others that can be obtained on interlibrary loan, for people of all ages. In addition, patrons can get subscriptions to popular magazines in braille format. TLBPH’s braille collection is the largest in the state and the only one open to anyone who needs braille to read.

We think Stevie would be pleased.

The Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped is a section of the Tennessee State Library & Archives, which is a division of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s Office. For more information on the Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, go to the Library’s webpage at:

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State