Tennessee - History and Heritage

Tennessee - History and Heritage


With a rich tapestry of American heritage, Tennessee’s historical stomping grounds are sure to enlighten visitors while educating them on the state’s legendary past.

  • Three U.S. Presidents called Tennessee home: Andrew Johnson, James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson.
  • Sequyouh (a Cherokee Indian born in Vonore) created the Cherokee alphabet.
  • In 1960, Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to earn three gold Olympic medals.
  • Memphian Clarence Saunders created the first grocery store chain: Piggly Wiggly.
  • Tennessean Jack Massey is the only person in American history to take three companies to the New York Stock Exchange: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hospital Corporation of America and Winners, Corp.
  • The legendary David "Davy" Crockett was a Tennessean.
  • Carnton Plantation is home to McGavock Confederate Cemetery, the largest privately owned military cemetery in the nation and is the setting for the New York Times bestselling book, Widow of the South.
  • The Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville celebrated its bicentennial in 2007. A 30-acre historic site representing 200 years of Tennessee history, the Belle Meade Plantation features an antebellum mansion, frontier log cabin and seven outbuildings.

Museum and Monuments
Tennessee offers an abundance of cultural and historical museums and monuments.

Bicentennial Mall State Park
In the middle of the state, experience the 19-acre park that gives visitors a taste of Tennessee’s history and natural wonder: Bicentennial Mall State Park. Designed to serve as a lasting monument to Tennessee’s bicentennial celebration, the park includes a 200-foot granite state map that highlights the major roads, 95 counties, rivers and details of each county. The park also includes information on Tennessee’s railroading history and 31 vertical water fountains—reflective of each of the predominant waterways throughout the state.

The Cotton Museum (Memphis)
Further west, experience the business of one of the state’s keen crops: cotton. The Cotton Museum tells the story of the cotton industry, including its many influences on daily life. Located in the city that remains the epicenter of worldwide cotton trading—Memphis—the museum offers a variety of interpretive exhibits, educational programs and research archives.

American Museum of Science & Energy (Oak Ridge)
Science and history meet at the American Museum of Science & Energy in Oak Ridge in East Tennessee. A center for exploration dedicated to the World War II Manhattan Project history and the science that emerged from Oak Ridge, features live demonstrations, interactive exhibits and presentations.

Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art (Nashville)
Within its 55 acres, Nashville’s Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art offers a complex institution rich in history, beautiful gardens and fine art. Each summer an outdoor life-size exhibit is on display in the gardens. The museum presents American and European art and is recognized as a center for contemporary art in the Southeast. Named to the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion and the original boxwood gardens are amazing works of architecture and design and the ideal setting for the gardens and art museum.

African American History
Throughout the state, there are dozens of attractions and festivals that showcase the impact African Americans have had on music, art and events that helped shape the world.

National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum offers a comprehensive overview of the civil rights movement in thorough interpretive exhibits and profound audio visual displays. Housed at the site of the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the $8.8 million center serves as an educational institution designed to help visitors understand the civil rights movement and how it impacted other movements for social rights worldwide.

Beck Cultural Exchange Center (Knoxville)
Knoxville offers the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, which features the history of African Americans in Knoxville and East Tennessee from the late 1800s to the present. The historic information is displayed through photographs, newspapers, biographies, audio and video recordings, books and artwork.

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