Sep 20, 2021 - Technology

Apple, TSU to create app mapping Nashville's civil rights history

Photo illustration of a collage featuring Diane Nash, James Lawson and John Lewis, partially pixelated and over a pattern of smart phone and app shapes.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photos: Getty Images

Apple is teaming up with Tennessee State University and professor Learotha Williams to create an app showing how the civil rights movement in the Jim Crow South grew out of North Nashville and the city’s HBCUs.

Flashback: John Lewis, James Lawson and Diane Nash are among the civil rights icons who met in Nashville before participating in iconic events like the Freedom Rides, Bloody Sunday and the March on Washington.

How it works: Apple already worked with TSU to expand diversity in coding. Now the company is pairing Williams with developer Marc Aupont and HBCU students from across the country to create the new app.

  • The app will guide people on a walking tour of key landmarks in the movement, including the cafeteria where TSU students were recruited for activism.
  • Along the way, people will be able to hear interviews Williams conducted with civil rights luminaries.

Why it matters: The new app, which is still in development, will supercharge Williams’ efforts to shine a light on the city’s often overlooked civil rights role.

  • "We produce stuff that maybe 50 people will read," Williams told Axios of his normal work as a historian. "Now you have an audience that’s potentially global."

Meanwhile: You can learn more about the local history of the civil rights movement through Williams’ North Nashville Heritage Project or a book he edited on the topic.

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