Diane Nash Metro Plaza dedicated to Civil Rights legend

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Shown during plaza ribbon cutting ceremony l-r are: State Rep. Justin Jones; Metro Councilmember Nancy VanReece; Dr. Forrest Harris, Sr. American Baptist College president; Nashville Mayor Freddie O’ Connell; Honoree Diane Nash, Civil Rights Activist Vencen Horsley; and Metro Councilmember At-Large Zulfat Suara. Photo courtesy of Diane Nash Committee

By Logan Langlois

NASHVILLE, TN — Music City rolled out the red carpet for local icon Diane Nash in celebration of her courage and accomplishments as a pioneering figure in the Civil Rights Movement and the dedication of the Diane Nash Metro Plaza. While attending Fisk University, Nash led several non-violent protests and lunch counter sit-ins throughout Nashville. Diane Nash’s accomplishments include the desegregation of six lunch counters in stores around the city.

It was around this time Nash rose to prominence as a leader and strategist in the student wing of the Civil Rights movement. Following the tragic bombing of civil rights leader Z. Alexander Looby’s house, Nash courageously led a group of students on a historic march up to the Nashville courthouse. It was on these steps that she confronted then-Mayor Ben West on April 19, 1960, by asking “Do you feel it is wrong to discriminate against a person solely on the basis of their race or color?”

To which he responded, “Yes.”

Steering Committee member and banquet co-chair Dr. Phyllis Qualls said this was captured by several news outlets, and four weeks later lunch counters in Nashville were desegregated.

Later, Nash would become a member of the committee that worked towards the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dr. Qualls said she hopes the celebration inspires future young people to participate in civil rights and politics. Dr. Qualls said the Metro Plaza was meant to be named after Diane Nash years ago, but COVID-19 and other reasons delayed the effort until it was suggested again by the Nashville Metropolitan Minority Caucus. Dr. Qualls said events celebrating important figures such as Diane Nash or other Civil Rights legends bring communities together out of appreciation and respect for their sacrifices and allow citizens to reflect on their city history.