Look Back: Ex-slave Benjamin Carr became teacher at Tenn State



Fran Cutrell Rutkovsky was raised in Dixon Springs, but has ties with Hartsville and she and her husband subscribe to The Vidette. She recently contacted me to say that she had run across some historical reference to a fellow from here who made an important contribution to Tennessee State University in Nashville. She asked me if I had ever heard of him.

I hadn’t, but I quickly set to work to find out more about this amazing fellow.

I contacted the Tennessee State University library and asked the librarian if she had any information on Mr. Carr, who was also the school’s first agriculture teacher. She not only had his biography but she also had his “autobiography”!

Benjamin Carr had written down his own history!

I quote from the first page:

“I was born a slave on the farm of Jordan Carr, in Macon County, and with the exception of a few months in Kentucky, I have spent my whole life in Trousdale County, Tenn. As a boy I worked for different white farmers in this vicinity. From these I got my training and the inspiration for future work.”

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TSU Mentioned on NPR Concerning Race Relations


At another table, Keonna Hill starts talking about her plan to make sure she gets into her dream school — Tennessee State University. Hill says she’s also concerned about the protests sweeping college campuses across the country.

“Everywhere you go, there’s racism and its a problem. I am scared, I mean what kid wouldn’t be scared,” Hill says.

Tennessee State University is a historically black college and Hill says she expects the campus atmosphere there to be comfortable.

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Listen to the Segment here

Will HBCUs see a Benefit due to the Racial Unrest on College Campuses?

Tennessee State Researchers help win $22 million grant from the Energy Department

The UI research team will look at potential vulnerabilities in the nation’s power grid and develop cybersecurity tools to prevent intrusions and mitigate the impact of a successful attack.

The UI team consists of members of CREDC, including Argonne National Laboratory, Arizona State University, Dartmouth College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Rutgers University, Tennessee State University, the University of Houston and Washington State University. The consortium is also partnering with industry representatives, such as Illinois power company Ameren.

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Meet TSU Alum Bene Viera


Name: Béne Viera

Class: December 2006

Occupation: Journalist and Writer

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Current city of Residence: Brooklyn, NY

1) Why did you choose TSU?

I always knew I was attending an HBCU for undergrad. I didn’t even apply to any PWIs. My top choices were Southern, FAMU and TSU. When the acceptance letters came in for all three it boiled down to money. TSU offered me an academic scholarship and my mom is also an alum. It really was a no-brainer to stay in Nashville, live on campus, continue my mother’s legacy and graduate undergraduate debt free!

2) How did TSU prepare you for your current profession?

I was an English major, and I would honestly put my education next to any Ivy-leaguers in the same field. The top-notch professors I had not only taught well, but they gave tough love. They would gather you with the quickness if you weren’t on top of you game. But how TSU prepared me for my current profession has more to do with the confidence they instilled in me as a Black woman. It was often said by professors, “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they got.” It was imbedded in our heads that we would be competing with not only whites, but Asians, Indians, etc., and we would literally have to prove ourselves. Knowing that heightens your ambition. It does something to your work ethic. It prepares you in every way for what you will have to deal with in the real world, especially fields dominated by white males.

3) What’s the best advice you received from a parent, grandparent, family member, mentor or friend?

A few years into my career I didn’t think I was as far as I should be based on my age. I was comparing my journey to the journalists and writers I looked up to. “By 27 so and so had already written their first book!” A Black woman who is a NYT Bestselling writer many times over, got on the phone with me and told me to stop doing that. She dropped many gems, but the one I always go back to is her saying, “Put your head down and do the work; nobody can deny the work. Everything will come when it’s supposed to if you’re doing the work.” I’ll never forget it. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay has said something similar. Stop looking for mentors or advice on how to get there, and just work. We waste so much time with that when we could be mastering our crafts.

4) Why do you love TSU?

Tttttttttttt- Ssssssssss-Uuuuuuuu! My blue and white pride runs deep. I love TSU because I learned confidence. Because I was encouraged to critically think outside of what the books tell you. Because Blackness was celebrated. Because my professors looked like me. Because brilliant women were the norm. Because it was a family. Because most of my classmates not only looked at me, but were also intelligent. I could be myself. The traditions of TSU, the experiences, the lifelong bond with fellow alumni, is invaluable. Because of TSU I am who I am — a writer, thinker and activist.

Please follow @BeneViera  on twitter and please check out her website beneviera.com.

Ms. Viera wrote the Shining Star Cover for Essence Magazine.

TSU Professers Says Clean Power Plan will benefit Tennessee minorities

For the past year, a team of Tennessee State University students and I have been investigating the air quality in and around the Cayce Place community as participants in an Environmental Protection Agency research project.

Low-income and minority communities such as Cayce Place are often the hardest hit by the effects of air pollution and climate change.

The EPA’s new Clean Power Plan will, for the first time ever, limit power plant releases of carbon dioxide, particulate matter and related pollutants such as ozone.

Forty percent of the U.S. population living near power plants are people of color — so the plan will greatly benefit these communities. It will reduce incidences of asthma and other pollution-related illnesses, as well as create thousands of new jobs and save families money on utility and medical bills.

Yet, despite findings from several independent organizations showing how the Clean Power Plan will benefit low-income and minority communities, the National Black Chamber of Commerce released a report earlier this year misrepresenting its impacts. The report, funded by special interest groups seeking to preserve the bottom line for fossil fuel companies, alleges — wrongly — that the plan will harm African- American and Hispanic families.

By spreading misinformation, the National Black Chamber of Commerce is risking the health of thousands of children of color in Tennessee and across the country.

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