On Saturday, June 19, Nashville Zoo will officially open our new history feature, the Morton Family Exhibit. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 11:00 a.m. at the cabin located just behind the Zoo’s Grassmere Historic Home. June 19th, also known as "Juneteenth", commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States.
The Zoo worked with the relatives of Frank Morton, a 1900’s tenant farmer who lived on the Grassmere property, to refurbish the cabin and install interpretive panels that help tell the story of Frank and his family’s contributions to the Grassmere property.
“The majority of African-Americans in the south became tenant farmers or sharecroppers by the end of the Reconstruction era, yet there are few locations in Middle Tennessee that interpret this significant part of history,” said Tori Mason, Interpretive Programs Manager for Nashville Zoo. “Our hopes for this exhibit are to honor the work of Mr. Morton and his family, and provide our visitors with a window into the daily lives of tenant farmers throughout the south.”
When visiting the Zoo’s Historic Grassmere Home and Farm, guests will be able to enter the previously closed cabin and be immersed into space where Frank Morton lived. Interpretive panels will provide information about tenant farming and sharecropping, along with highlighting different aspects of the living space. Archival photos, and quotes from farm owner Elise Croft's journals about the Mortons will be available along with audio oral histories from two of Frank’s daughters.
All Zoo guests and media are welcome to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony which will include Zoo officials and Morton family members. The self-guided cabin tour is included with Zoo admission or membership.
This project was funded in part by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Other funders included an anonymous donor, the Metro Historical Commission Foundation, and Historic Nashville, Inc.