May 11, 2018

Andrea Blackman | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Change Agents

Andrea Blackman


Division Manager, Special Collections & Director, Civil Rights Room, Nashville Public Library


M.Ed., Florida A&M University, 1994


In 2016, Civil Rights and a Civil Society won an American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) History in Progress Award, a AASLH Leadership in History Award, and a $25,000 grant from Nissan. In 2017, it won an Urban Libraries Council Top Innovators honorable mention.


@adblackman7 on Twitter; Civil Rights and a Civil Society; Civil Rights Room Nashville on Facebook

Photo by Nora Canfield


Righting Civil Wrongs

If those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it, Andrea Blackman may have found one way to inspire learning. As division manager for the Nashville Public Library (NPL) Special Collections and director of the library’s Civil Rights Room—in charge of documenting the local history of the civil rights movement in one of its key cities—she has initiated an ambitious effort to meld the library’s unique holdings into a curriculum for change.

Not content merely to curate and conserve the past, she began “Civil Rights and a Civil Society” in 2015 to educate members of local law enforcement about the context that informs and shapes their relationship with the community. Yet while police training will always be part of the program, according to Blackman, what she calls “version 3.0,” rebranded as “Civil Rights and a Civil Society: Critical Dialogues in Equity, Race, and Identity,” reflects the much broader audience it has evolved to serve. There are distinct curricula for higher education, third through 12th graders, corporations, and the community at large, as well as officers.

Blackman is also focused on working in-depth with the many communities that have contacted her looking to adapt the program to their own locale: these include not only U.S. destinations such as Springfield, MO, and Huntsville, AL, but even Belfast, Ireland, and the Nelson Mandela University in South Africa.

The program has touched 4,150 participants and counting. About 1,052 of these are members of law enforcement; the rest include 1,237 K–12 students, 1,340 community members, 282 college students, and 239 corporate employees. The program has seen a 136 percent increase in the number of new community members reached, says Blackman, many of whom are nonwhite and under the age of 50.

The program has changed what it means to be a librarian in Nashville’s special collections. “When we started this, I thought I could do it 25 percent of the time,” says Blackman. “This is 90 percent of what I do now.” The demand keeps growing. “The intensity that goes into replicating the program has changed a lot,” says Blackman. “Mirroring our country, the landscape has become more contentious.” It is programs like hers that create common ground.

This article was published in Library Journal's March 15, 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. Chase Adams says:

    I had the good fortune to work with Andrea during my tenure at the Nashville Public Library. She is an amazing and smart woman. NPL is very fortunate to have her as an employee

  2. Cami Townsel says:

    This recognition is so well deserved. I have had the pleasure of working with Andrea on many collaborations. She is a jewel!

  3. Sonja Mallery says:

    Wow! An amazing trailblazer helping to shape The Conversation and move us all forward … She is indeed a Mover and a Shaker! I am proud and honored to call her my friend! Congratulations!

  4. Norma Jackson says:

    Dear Andrea,
    You are talented, smart, dedicated, and a mover and a shaker. Congratulations !

    Norma Jackson

  5. Reeta Parks says:

    Congratulations Andrea! I am not the least bit surprised you have received this recognition. The messages shared through Civil Society and the Civil Rights Room are vital to all! Thanks for your outreach and making this accessible to so many.

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